New Zealand:

Controversial change to allow irradiation treatment of imported produce

More imported fresh fruits and vegetables treated with irradiation could soon be on sale on New Zealand shelves if a rule change goes through. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is expected to finalise the change this month, despite the fact that 95 per cent of submissions received about it were opposed. It also acknowledged the treatment could reduce the nutritional value of produce, although it says this is minimal.

But FSANZ decided irradiation was a safe and effective biosecurity tool, and will help open up export markets, bringing Australia and New Zealand into line with other countries.

Long-time irradiation campaigner, Bob Tait, of Friends of the Earth, sees the change as another example of how New Zealand has lost its food sovereignty – the country’s historic stance against the treatment has been gradually whittled away.

“That has allowed the situation now where within this month there’s likely to be formal approval from an Australian-dominated body to allow the importation of fruit and vegetables from Australia to be irradiated.”

The irradiation application was made by the Queensland Government, which sought the change to allow for any fresh fruit or vegetables to be treated with irradiation to kill pests. The process involves exposing products to ionising radiation, either gamma rays, a high-energy electron beam, or x-rays.

According to stuff.co.nz, currently, the treatment can only be used for 26 specified produce items, including imported tomatoes.


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