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Food Irradiation in Europe
Food Irradiation: What Is The Current Situation In The European Union?
Food irradiation remains a little known and marginal practice in Europe. However, the pressures from the nuclear lobby, governments and international organisations backing liberal globalisation and the expansion of trans-national corporations (TNCs), are eager to spread this controversial technology worldwide. European consumers, small and medium size producers, and all the citizens caring for the environment and good quality food need to mobilize to resist food irradiation and promote a fair and sustainable food supply system.
In February 1999, framework directive 1999/2/CE, concerning irradiated food was issued. It states that all irradiated food must be labelled and that the irradiation facilities have to be controlled by the competent authorities in each country. However, the list of food products allowed for irradiation needs to be approved by both the European Parliament (EP) and the Council before it is enforceable in all member countries. In December 2002, the EP opposed expanding the original list of foods approved to be treated with ionising radiation. That original list includes spices, dried aromatic herbs and vegetable seasonings. Until the Council confirms this list, each European country has its own list of foodstuff that can be legally irradiated. Thus, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and most of the new member countries allow a large number of irradiated foods, including chicken, potatoes, onions, frog legs, vegetables and fruits. In addition, the European Parliament agreed to depend on their own research indicating the health safety of irradiated foods, rather than that of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The decision made by the European Parliament did succeed in impeding the expansion of food irradiation facilities in Europe, which occurred at a rapid rate during the 1990s. Nevertheless, the nuclear lobby is working hard to have food irradiation become a standard for world food supply. Its proponents are willing to make full use of a powerful weapon: trade harmonisation. According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), countries are not allowed to oppose the importation of irradiated products, unless it is scientifically recognised that it is unsafe for human consumption.
WTO and the Codex Alimentarius should not be used to decrease food safety standards. We need to keep struggling for our right to safe and nutritious food and to a preserved environment.
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