Irradiated food supplement removed from UK shelves

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food irradiation Food Eu

The removal of a food product in the UK due to the presence of an
undeclared irradiated ingredient highlights the complicated legal
status of this technology within the EU.

Danish firm Ferrosan has withdrawn two batch codes of Imedeen Prime Renewal food supplements in the UK due to the undeclared presence of irradiated white tea extract.

The irradiated white tea extract, manufactured in China by the China National Chemical Construction Anhui Company, does not comply with the Food (Control of Irradiation) Regulations 1990.

According to the UK's Food Safety Authority (FSA), there are no immediate food safety implications arising from these irradiated products. However, the irradiation had not been carried out at an approved food irradiation plant.

In addition, the products were not labelled as being irradiated, thus failing to comply with the Food Labelling Regulations 1996.

Irradiation, used to prolong the shelf life of food products and/or to reduce health hazards, is a physical treatment of food with high-energy, ionising radiation. Although an accepted manufacturing process in the USA and approved for use since 1963 to control mould and insect infestation in wheat and to inhibit the growth of sprouts on potatoes, the European consumer remains sceptical of the food safety aspect.

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) says that food irradiation is a proven, beneficial method of improving the safety of the food supply and poses no human health threat. However, a number of medical studies have claimed that the process induces a chemical reaction in foods, which can prove to be carcinogenic.

The regulatory situation regarding irradiated food within the EU is somewhat confusing. At the moment, the only foods that may be irradiated and sold freely across the EU are dried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings.

These must be irradiated in an approved EU facility, labelled 'irradiated' or 'treated with ionising radiation' and accompanied by full and correct documentation relating to the irradiation treatment.

Imported food, which has been irradiated outside the EU, must also comply with the same labelling and documentation rules. Again, dried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings are the only foods that may be irradiated outside Member States of the EU and sold freely within the EU.

These must have been irradiated at a facility approved by the European Commission. There are currently five approved facilities outside the EU, three in South Africa, one in Turkey and one in Switzerland.

However, some Member States permit other foods to be irradiated. And until the rules on irradiated food are fully harmonised across the bloc, the FSA is free to approve other facilities in non-EU countries to irradiate food for export to the UK - but only for foods other than dried herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings.

Currently, however, the FSA has not approved any irradiation facilities outside the EU.

The batch codes of the Ferrosan product being withdrawn are GF 8988 and GF 8989. The FSA said that both codes have a best before date of June 2007.

No other batch codes of this product are known to be affected. The company has written to all recipients, requesting that they withdraw the affected product from sale and return it to their distributor.

Ferrosan imports the product directly into the UK from Soborg, Denmark.

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