The food irradiation Directives 1999/2/EC and 1999/3/EC became applicable on 20 September 2000. Since 20 March 2001 all irradiated foods and food ingredients on the Community market must comply with the provisions of the Directives.
Only a single food category is listed on the EU wide positive list for irradiation treatment: ëdried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetable seasoningsí. A requirement was introduced in Directive 1999/2/EC that the Commission should forward a proposal by 31 December 2000 to complete this Community positive list of foodstuffs authorised for irradiation, to be adopted through the co-decision procedure. Meanwhile, Member States can maintain existing national authorisations for irradiation of certain foodstuffs and can continue to apply existing national restrictions or bans in compliance with the Treaty.
Before preparing a proposal to the European Parliament and the Council for a Community positive list, the Commission services launched an open discussion with consumer organisations, industry organisations and other interested parties in autumn 2000 on the strategy for drawing up the positive list. A consultation paper outlining a strategy was launched, inviting for comments.
The comments revealed strong views, either in favour or against. The conditions for authorisation as laid down in the Directive, especially technological need, benefit to the consumers and no substitute for hygiene, are subject to a wide range of interpretations.
Given the complexity of this issue, the Commission considers that a broader debate is opportune at this stage.