The British Food Standards Agency (FSA) survey has revealed that a wide range of dietary supplements sold in the UK have been irradiated, violating the British food legislation.
According to a report, companies with affected products have been told to withdraw them from the shelves. Currently the only foodstuffs allowed to be irradiated and sold in the UK are herbs and spices- and only if they are labelled to say they have been irradiated.
But in a survey of dietary supplements, prawns and shrimps and herbs and spices, 42 per cent of dietary supplements (58 out of 138 samples) tested were irradiated, the FSA was quoted as saying. Five out of 202 prawn and shrimp samples were also irradiated.
One of the 203 herb and spice samples tested was irradiated but not labelled to say so, it said.
"These results for dietary supplements are not acceptable. There is no food safety concern, but they are being sold illegally. Consumers should not be misled in this way and the Food Standards Agency has made it clear that the industry must take action to remove affected products," Dr John Bell, Director, Food Safety Policy at the FSA was quoted as saying.
Food irradiation is a processing technique that helps to reduce the number of food spoiling or disease causing organisms in food such as herbs and spices.
There will be a further joint FSA/Local authority survey to check that the companies concerned have taken appropriate action.Meanwhile, according to Spices Board sources here, consumer faith in food irradiation was reported to be on the rise in the US, probably due to the increase in food safety concerns since the terrorist events of September 11 last year.
During the days following the events of Sep 11, there was significant media attention on the fact that irradiation could eliminate anthrax in mail just as it kills E.coli and Salmonella in ground beef and chicken. According to the company, a recent survey showed that more than 50 per cent of US adults believed that the Government should require irradiation to help ensure a safe food supply, they said.