Irradiation ruling condemned
condemned the weakening of international food irradiation rules,
which will allow any food to be irradiated at any dose, regardless
of how high.
Leading consumer groups in the United States, Canada and Italy have condemned the weakening of international food irradiation rules, which will allow any food to be irradiated at any dose, regardless of how high. The decision, they believe, ignores evidence that irradiated foods may not be safe for human consumption - including the destruction of vitamins and the formation of chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects.
The decision was made in Rome on Monday by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which sets food safety standards for 168 nations, and which operates under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organisation (WHO). The decision was made over the objections of more 10 countries, including Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Spain.
"The UN and WHO have abandoned their mission to protect the health and welfare of the world's population," said Andrianna Natsoulas of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "People who eat irradiated foods will become guinea pigs in what will amount to one of the largest feeding experiments in history."
Andrea Peart of the Sierra Club of Canada said: "This is the final straw in the reckless pursuit of using irradiation, which is still an experimental technology, to solve complicated food safety problems. This decision is a severe blow against the rights of nations to establish their own food safety laws. It is undemocratic on its face."
Critics claim that toxic chemicals such as 2-alkylcyclobutanones (2-ACBs) are formed in irradiated foods. Some scientists believe that these can promote cancer development and cause genetic damage in rats. Other toxic chemicals that have been detected in irradiated foods include several compounds that are known or suspected to cause cancer or birth defects, including benzene, ethanol, toluene and methyl ethyl ketone.
"We are at a loss to explain Codex's contention that irradiated foods are safe to eat in the face of so much evidence to the contrary," said Giulio Labbro Francia of the Italian consumer group Movimento Dei Consumatori. "Now consumers throughout the world are in danger of the unknown health impacts."
However, Codex ruled that countries will have to demonstrate that irradiating food meets a legitimate technological purpose.