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Irradiation (Foodstuffs)

Volume 401: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the foods tuffs for which an irradiation process has been permitted. [102669]

The Food (Control of Irradiation) Regulations 1990, as amended, permits the irradiation of seven categories of food in the United Kingdom:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Cereals
  • Bulbs and tubers
  • Spices and condiments
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Poultry
Food that falls within one of the

above categories may only be irradiated in a facility that has been granted an Irradiation Licence. Only one UK licence has been granted, which permits the irradiation of a range of dried herbs and spices.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what tests are available to establish whether foodstuffs have been subject to irradiation; how many such checks were carried out in the last year for which figures are available; and what percentage of those checks identified that illegal irradiation had occurred. [102670]

There are nine tests that have been standardised by European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) of these thermoluminescence and photostimulated luminescence techniques are the most useful. More specific tests include analysis for alkyl cyclobutanones and electron spin resonance analysis.The nine standardised detection, tests for irradiated foods are:

EN 1784:1996: Detection of irradiated food containing fatߞGas chromatographic analysis of hydrocarbons.
EN 1785:1996: Detection of irradiated food containing fatߞGas chromatographic/mass spectrometric analysis of 2— alkylcyclobutanones
EN 1786:1996: Detection of irradiated food containing boneߞMethod by ESR spectroscopy
EN 1787:2000: Detection of irradiated food containing cellulose by ESR spectroscopy
EN 1788:2001: Detection of irradiated food from which silicate minerals can be isolatedߞMethod by thermoluminescence
EN 13708:2001: Detection of irradiated food containing crystalline sugar by ESR spectroscopy
EN 13783:2001: Detection of irradiated food using Direct Epifluorescent Filter Technique/Aerobic Plate Count (DEFT/ APC)ߞScreening method
EN 13784:2001: DNA comet assay for the detection of irradiated foodstuffsߞScreening method
EN 13751:2002: Detection of irradiated food using photostimulated luminescence.

In June 2002, the Food Standards Agency published the results of a survey for irradiated foods. A total of 543 food samples were analysed. Of these, 58 were found to be illegal irradiated products and six were irradiated but not labelled as such.