The Stop Food Irradiation Alliance - SFIA
 Web Site concerning the Banning of Food Irradiation in Australia - Text Version

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Collaborators in the food irradiation field, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, among others, tell us that food irradiation is just another way of preserving food to make it safe and wholesome  - like pasteurisation, canning or freezing.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You can pasteurise milk on your kitchen stove using a saucepan;  heating, canning or freezing do result in some loss of nutrients, but cannot be compared to irradiation.

In this process, whereby foodstuffs pass by means of conveyor belt into a chamber with walls of concrete approximately 2 metres thick to be bombarded by gamma rays from a radiation source, the very molecular structure of the food itself is changed. 

In 1983 the Codex Alimentarius Commission (the WHO/FAO body which sets the Standards on global food safety) limited the overall average dose of irradiation to 10 kiloGray, equivalent to approximately 330 million chest x-rays.

However, despite serious adverse scientific findings, in March, 2001 the C.A.C.'s advisory committee, the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants endorsed a proposal to remove the abovementioned dose limit.  (See "Scientific Reports" & "C.C.F.A.C. Endorses Proposal to Remove Current Global Irradiation Dose Limit & Discard Health & Safety Standards" at this website.)

Under the first application to irradiate food in Australia (Application A413, currently before the Australia New Zealand Food Authority), it is intended to irradiate the following groups of foods at dosages as shown below:

 For Herbs & Spices and also Teas:
Maximum dose 30 kGy - equiv. about 1 billion chest x-rays

For Oil Seeds and Nuts (including ground nuts - Peanuts)
Maximum dose 10 kGy - equiv. about 330 million chest x-rays

There are two methods of irradiating food:
either by gamma ray irradiation from decaying radioactive sources such as cobalt-60 or caesium 137,
or by using e-beam accelerators.

It should be noted that the damaging effects on food from e-beam irradiators are indistinguishable from those caused by gamma rays.  See notes at end of this webpage.

In Australia, it is intended to irradiate food using highly radioactive Cobalt 60 from Canada's nuclear reactors. 

Exposure of food to specified Standards of irradiation smashes apart its chemical bonds, sending electrons flying.   Scientific studies have shown the following results:

Increased chromosomal damage in animals and humans. *

Increased frequency of cell mutations. *

Formation of mutant bacteria. *

Increased frequency of tumours, reduced survival rate, and  other health problems in animals. *

Increased carcinogens and other toxins in food, such as: Benzene, Formaldehyde, Octane, Butane, and Methyl Propane. (Benzene and formaldehyde are classified carcinogens). *

Formation of new and potentially dangerous compounds in foods called Unique Radiolytic Products, which have yet to  be enumerated and identified.  The higher the dose of radiation, the greater the number of U.R.P.s formed. One of these, 2-DCB, has recently been proven to cause cellular and genetic damage in human and rat cells. * and **

It causes the formation of free radicals. *

Vitamin content is reduced by up to 96% depending upon the food item and other factors.  Vitamins affected are A, B, C, E and K.  Also, amino acids and polyunsaturated fats can be depleted. *

There have been no studies done on the long term effects of eating irradiated food;  further, almost all research on toxicity was done prior to 1980, and did not use modern toxicological methods.

The United States Food & Drug Administration's assertion that irradiated food is safe is not based on animal testing, but on a theoretical calculation of risk as to how many new and potentially hazardous chemicals a consumer might ingest from irradiated foods.  Of 441 toxicological studies reviewed by the FDA, only 5 which appeared to support safety were accepted.

Now, in the U.S.A., even items such as eggs and bean sprouts are being irradiated.

Irradiation is used to prevent or reduce sprouting in vegetables;  to delay ripening of fruit and vegetables;  to inactivate or kill insects, moulds and yeast.  It therefore increases shelf life - further reducing what nutrient value may be left after irradiation.

Interestingly, irradiation also causes increased production of a highly carcinogenic, naturally occurring fungus (aflatoxin) in grains and other mould containing foodstuffs such as potatoes & peanuts.  Aflatoxin in high dose irradiated rice was fifty times higher than the non-irradiated control product - findings of the U.S. FDA, Division of Microbiology.

Irradiation used at the last stage of production allows for dirty processing and handling methods, and unacceptably high levels of bacterial contamination prior to "treatment".

Beef, pork, lamb and poultry intended for irradiation are regularly contaminated with faeces, urine and pus.  Irradiation does nothing to remove these.

In addition, rotten fish has been irradiated to kill friendly, warning, odour-producing bacteria.

Irradiation does not necessarily kill all the micro-organisms that can make you sick, and it can leave intact the toxins they produce.

Advocates of food irradiation assert that the ideal point for irradiation is after goods have been packaged.  Unfortunately for the consumer, research to ascertain the effects of irradiation on food packaged in plastics and other synthetics is lacking.  These materials are very complex.

This issue has not been addressed by Steritech Pty Ltd in Application A413, despite the fact that many of those goods would be so packaged.

Labelling requirements are minimal.  With regard to packaged goods, a label must be attached to the package in type of 3mm.  For food sold loose, such as nuts, fruit and vegetables, there is to be displayed on or in connection with the display a label of 9mm;  however, provision is also made for this information to be displayed in accompanying documentation rather than necessarily being on a label.

In the U.S.A., the nuclear and food industries are spending enormous sums lobbying that federal government to remove labelling from irradiated foods because of buyer resistance.  Committees of both the House and Senate in the U.S. have proposed substituting the words "electronic pasteurisation" for "irradiated" on labels.

Hospitals, meals-on-wheels, nursing homes and hostels will not have to disclose whether the food they serve has been irradiated.

Therefore those amongst us with the greatest need for good nutrition could be subjected to this "empty calorie" food. ***

Neither will restaurants have to disclose this information.

The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA), the regulatory body which supervises Australia's food health and safety Standards, has agreed to irradiation of food on a case-by-case basis - Standard A17.

If ANZFA approves the first application to irradiate even one foodstuff in Australia it will set a precedent for ongoing applications.  Will you have time to make submissions every time a NEW application is made?

ACT NOW against Application A413 and prevent it happening.  (See web page this site:  "ANZFA Submissions or Letters.)

In February, 2001 the federal government introduced legislation effectively eviscerating ANZFA and handing it over to industry control.  The Opposition have had the matter referred to a Senate Committee and have called for a public enquiry.  For details see Sydney Morning Herald website: under "archive" 28/2/01. (Link opens in a new window)


*     Refer "References" web page at this site.

**    Refer "Scientific Reports" web page at this site.

***  Food Chemical News. "Irradiation Compounds Vitamin Loss from Cooking"  A.R.S. Reports.  November 10, 1986, p.42  (These are the Agriculture Research Service Reports of the U.S. Department of Agriculture). 

Please refer also to three very important web pages at under "food irradiation - Fact sheets":
(link to the fact sheet index here, it will open in a new browser window)

"Is Irradiated Food Safe"

"E-Beaming The Talk" (information on e-beam accelerators)

"The FDA Again Ignores Its Own Warnings"


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Page last updated Monday, 02 April 2001 12:23:26 AM
(AEST - Australian Eastern Standard Time - GMT+10 )