Tomatoes, garlic and capsicum on chopping board

Government approves nuclear irradiation of tomatoes and capsicums

In Community and Relationship, Diet, Nutrition and Recipes by Living Now0 Comments

by Friends of the Earth and Food Irradiation Watch   

 

The irradiation of tomatoes and capsicums (bell peppers) has been approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). In Australia, all irradiation is done with nuclear material.

Exposing food to ionising radiation disrupts its molecular make-up, producing free-radicals and potentially other toxic chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde.

Ionising radiation also creates new chemicals called ‘radiolytic products’, some of which do not usually occur naturally in food. The impacts of these have not been adequately studied. One, known as 2-ACBs, has recently been found “to promote the cancer-development process in rats, cause genetic damage in rats and cause genetic and cellular damage in human and rat cells”.

Irradiation destroys and disrupts vitamins, proteins, essential fatty acids and other nutrients in food – sometimes significantly. It can destroy up to 80 percent of vitamin A in eggs and 48 percent of betacarotene in orange juice.

On 19th March, 2013, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) announced its approval of Application A1069 (made by the Queensland government), for the irradiation of tomatoes and capsicums.

Both the Queensland government and FSANZ admit the existing literature on the irradiation of tomatoes and capsicums has ‘limited’ value or relevance. They then emphasise that their own unpublished research was conducted under conditions similar to those expected when tomatoes and capsicums are irradiated here in Australia and they appear to rely on this as the basis for their argument that they do not need to have their own research peer-reviewed or tested by an independent agent.

Herbs, spices, herbal infusions and nine tropical fruits have been previously approved for irradiation in Australia and New Zealand. Pet foods, medicinal goods, and seeds and grains for animal consumption may also be irradiated. These are not classified as ‘food’ under Australian law, as they fall under different regulations and require no labelling.

While acknowledging in its assessments and fact sheets that irradiation may deplete vitamin and nutritional content, FSANZ has so far justified irradiation approvals on the basis that the approved foods made up a minimal part of the Australian and New Zealand diet. But that will dramatically change if irradiated tomatoes and capsicums are approved as these foods are regularly consumed as a core part of the diet by the Australian and New Zealand public. People from Southern European cultures in particular have a high consumption of both vegetables. Recent surveys show that 59% of Australians purchase fresh tomatoes in their weekly shopping and the average Australian consumes an estimated 23kg of tomato-based products per year.

Now, A1069 (the application for the irradiation of tomatoes and capsicums) only requires rubber-stamping from the Ministerial Council. Each state has at least one STATE MP on the Council. Let your local member know that you say NO!!!

As a member of the Ministerial Council you have final decision-making power over this approval. I call on you to reject this application, as the irradiation of these popular foods is not in the public interest. The irradiation of food has not been proven safe. I am extremely concerned that FSANZ continues to ignore scientific evidence highlighting the problems with irradiation, including vitamin depletion and the production of radiolytic products – chemicals formed in food when it is exposed to radiation, such as benzene, formaldehyde and cyclobutanones.

In 2009, the irradiation of cat food was outlawed in Australia after up to 100 cats developed neurological disorders after consuming irradiated cat food. There is no science proving this effect to be species specific, and yet the irradiation of food for human consumption is still permitted in Australia and New Zealand.

Furthermore, while I applaud the government for its decision to phase out the uses of some pesticides, I vehemently oppose the promotion of irradiation as the ‘alternative’. Numerous alternatives exist, including other chemical treatments, physical disinfestation, creation of pest-free zones and organic production.

 

I also am alarmed that FSANZ appears to function as a de facto promoter of irradiation, rather than a judicious adjudicator on the matter. FSANZ continues to ignore scientific modelling and consumer information that challenges its pro-irradiation stance. As a member of the Ministerial Council, you have responsibility to ensure safe and healthy food for our community and to prioritise that over food corporation interests.

 

The irradiation of tomatoes and capsicums poses a risk to our community and is not in the public interest. A1069 must be rejected.

I look forward to hearing your response to my concerns.

Yours faithfully,
[Your name]

What else you can do:

  1. Write to your favourite brands and ask them if they have an irradiation-free policy
  2. Ask your local supermarket or health food store if they have an irradiation-free policy
  3. Let Food Irradiation Watch know what they say by emailing them at [email protected]

 

Australian Government:

Hon Tanya Plibersek, MP
Minister for Health and Ageing
150 Broadway, Chippendale NSW  2008
[email protected]

The Hon Catherine King, MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing
PO Box 6022,
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra  ACT 2600
[email protected]

Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
GPO Box 2477,
Brisbane QLD 4001
[email protected]

New Zealand:
The Hon Nikki Kaye. MP,
Minister for Food Safety
P.O. Box 47-658,
Ponsonby Auckland 1144  New Zealand
[email protected]

Australian State & Territory Representatives:

QLD

Lead Minister:
The Hon Lawrence Springborg, MP Minister for Health
GPO Box 48,
Brisbane QLD 4001
[email protected]

The Hon John McVeigh MP
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
GPO Box 46,
Brisbane QLD 4001
[email protected]

NSW

Lead Minister:
Ms Katrina Hodgkinson, MP
Minister for Primary Industries
Level 30, Governor Macquarie Tower
1 Farrer Place,
Sydney NSW 2000
[email protected]

Mrs Jillian Skinner, MP,
Minister for Health
Level 31, Governor Macquarie Tower
1 Farrer Place,
Sydney NSW 2000
[email protected]

NT

The Hon David Tollner, MLA,
Minister for Health
GPO Box 3146
Darwin NT 0801
[email protected]

VIC

Lead Minister:
The Hon David Davis, MLC
Minister for Health
Shop 4, 976 Riversdale Rd.,
Surrey Hills VIC 3127
[email protected]

The Hon Peter Walsh, MP
Minister for Agriculture and Food Security
Level 20,1 Spring Street,
Melbourne  VIC 3000
[email protected]

WA

Lead Minister:
The Hon Dr Kim Hames, MB BS JP MLA,
Minister for Health
PO Box 5551
Falcon WA  6210
[email protected]

The Hon Terry Redman, MLA
Minister for Agriculture and Food
11th Floor, Dumas House
2 Havelock Street,
West Perth WA 6005
[email protected]

TAS

Lead Minister:
The Hon Michelle O’Byrne, MP
Minister for Health
GPO Box 1470, Hobart TAS 7000 Michelle.O’[email protected]

ACT

Ms Katy Gallagher, MLA
Minister for Health
GPO Box 1020,
Canberra ACT 2601
[email protected]

SA

Lead Minister:
The Hon Jack Snelling, MP
Minister for Health and Ageing
GPO Box 2555
Adelaide SA 5001
[email protected]

The Hon Gail Gago, MLC
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
GPO Box 464
Adelaide SA 5001
[email protected]

Australian Local Government Association:

Councillor Bill McArthur
Golden Plains Shire
President of the Municipal Association of Victoria
PO Box 111,
Bannockburn VIC 3331

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