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Food Irradiation campaign logoEnvironment Committee votes on Food Irradiation

November 2002

The Committee on Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy voted on the Breyer report on Tuesday 5 November 2002. Some very good points in the report were adopted as well as some excellent amendments. Among other points, the MEPs have supported:

  • better controls of irradiated food;
  • more monitoring and enforcement of illegal irradiation;
  • more research into the long-term health impacts of eating a diet of irradiated foods;
  • research which bases its assessment of the safety of consuming irradiated foods on the risks to children's rather than adult's health, as children are more sensitive;
    research into the health and safety implications for workers involved in irradiating food.

However the Committee did not provide a clear direction for finalising the Community list of foods authorised for treatment with ionising radiation. The adoption of a number of contradictory amendments on this point indicates confusion.

Paragraph 2 of the original report stated that the Committee:

Welcomes the Commission's suggestion that the current list be regarded as complete and requests that this be accepted so only herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings are permitted for irradiation in the EU;

Three amendments to Paragraph 2 were adopted. First was Amendment 17, submitted by UK MEP John Bowis (PPE/DE - Democrats/Conservatives) which makes the following changes to Paragraph 2: (deletions in brackets)

(Welcomes) Notes the Commission's suggestion that the current list could be regarded as complete and (requests that this be accepted so only) believes that any additions to herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings are only be permitted for irradiation in the EU as and when scientific knowledge suggests it is safe and efficacious to do so;

Then came Amendment 18, submitted by French MEP Françoise Grossetête (PPE/DE - Democrats/Conservatives), offering a complete replacement of Paragraph 2:

Notes with interest the second option envisaged by the Commission in its communication, namely that the products which are irradiated in some Member States in substantial amounts should be included on the positive list, provided this technology can improve the safety of certain products;

Amendment 20, submitted by UK MEP Philip Whitehead (PSE - European Socialists/Labour), also suggests a complete replacement for Paragraph 2:

Insists that before any proposal is submitted to add foodstuffs to the positive list (pursuant to Directive 1999/2/EC) a detailed analysis must be carried out on each foodstuff, with evidence given to demonstrate that each of the conditions for authorising food irradiation in Annex I of Directive 1999/2/EC are clearly met;

This result is confusing. Amendment 17, 18 and 20 were all suggested as alternatives for Paragraph 2, yet all were adopted, and make the new version of the report contradictory. It is this version which the plenary of the European Parliament will vote on in mid-December (16-19 December 2002).

Amendment 18 is of greatest concern, in that it suggests that the following foods should be added to the approved list: chicken offal, egg white, peeled shrimps, frog legs, deep frozen aromatic herbs, dried fruit, cereal flakes and germs, and gum arabic (additive).

This Amendment should be opposed by MEPs in mid-December, as allowing these foods onto the list at this stage would open the floodgates for food irradiation in Europe. This technology should clearly be treated with caution, and should not receive blanket approvals in the EU at this stage, and certainly not before the other requirements of the Breyer report have been fulfilled.

The lobby of MEPs will continue, leading up to the mid-December vote. To find out more or to support this campaign please contact Merav Shub on 020 7837 9229,

To view the original Breyer report or the new ammended Breyer report, in pdf format, please click on the links below:

The original Breyer report (pre-ammendments)

The Breyer report with the ammendments that were approved by the Environment Committee