in Standards A17 and 1.5.3 - Irradiation of Foods in the Food Standards Code
18 July 2001
The Draft Assessment Report and Regulatory Impact Statement is the Full Assessment of Application A413 as required under Section 15 of the ANZFA Act 199. Comments on this report are due by 15 August 2001
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The applicant applied to the Australian New Zealand Food Authority for permission to amend the Food Standards Code to permit the irradiation of herbs, spices, nuts, oilseeds and teas for particular technological and food safety purposes. The applicant subsequently altered the application. Details of the changes to the application are provided at Table 1, page 4, of the Report.
While irradiation has not been used in Australia or New Zealand for foods for human consumption, it has been used elsewhere for this purpose for many decades. A large body of scientific evidence is available to assess the safety of the technology for the purposes, the products and the dosages outlined in the application.
A scientific risk assessment of the application was undertaken to examine whether there were any significant public health and safety risks in relation to the application. The assessment examined the toxicological safety, technological justification and efficacy, microbiological safety and the nutritional implications for the diets of the Australian and New Zealand populations.
The scientific risk assessment concludes that the irradiated foods named in the amended application are safe to consume. These irradiated foods will not have any significant impact on the average dietary intakes of essential vitamins and minerals. The dietary modelling notes that nuts are not the primary dietary source of vitamin E for the general population or for vegetarians.
However, the public is genuinely concerned that there may be public health and safety risks in relation to the use of this technology, in particular its use in treating food. Evidence to this effect has not been demonstrated in the scientific risk assessment.
Approval of this application will bring significant benefits to consumers, industry and governments.
Benefits for consumers include the delivery of safe foods, as irradiation is proven to be more effective as a decontamination treatment for micro-organisms than existing chemical treatments such as ethylene oxide and at least as effective for disinfestation as methyl bromide. This will mean lower chemical residues in food and no loss of flavour or volatile oils in the treated herbs, spices and herbal infusions.
To enable those consumers who do not wish to consume foods treated with this technology to make an informed choice, irradiated foods will be labelled.
Benefits for industry include an alternative technology for treatment of herbs, spices, herbal infusions, peanuts, cashew nuts, almonds and pistachio nuts. This is particularly important because some of the currently widely used technologies may not be available in the longer term due to their potential damage to health and the environment. In addition, this technology should enhance trade. However, an approval of this application may cause an increased cost to industry because of labelling requirements, if no alternative technologies to irradiation exist.
The main benefit or governments of this new food technology for Australia and New Zealand that can provide improved public health and safety outcomes, compared with some of the existing technologies.
[ full version pdf - 100pages ]