Food Law News - EU - 1997
21 May 1997: IRRADIATION - Progress towards reaching Common Position
Council meeting - INTERNAL MARKET - Brussels, 21 May 1997
Irradiated Food - Progress on Adopting Directive
The Council reached political agreement, on the basis of a Presidency compromise, regarding a common position concerning the Directive on the approximation of the laws of the Member States concerning foods and food ingredients treated with ionizing radiation. The common position will be formally adopted by a qualified majority, the Italian delegation having declared its intention to vote against, at a forthcoming Council session. It will then be submitted to the European Parliament for a second reading according to the co-decision procedure.
Food irradiation is a physical method of processing food, similar to methods such as heat treatment, freezing or addition of additives.
The proposal has been discussed at Council level since its presentation in 1988. It was envisaged already in the 1985 White Paper for the completion of the Internal Market.
The compromise agreed in today's session implies the simultaneous adoption of
The complete list would be established in stages, with the Commission submitting proposals after examination of the national authorizations in force and after consultation of the Scientific Committee for Food. By 31.12.2002 at the latest, the Commission would have to submit a proposal intended to establish the final positive list.
- a framework Directive laying down general provisions such as the conditions for treatment, the rules governing the approval and control of irradiation facilities, and labelling (the treatment of foodstuffs or ingredients with ionizing radiation - even when such an ingredient constitutes less than 1% of the finished product - would always have to be mentioned on the label); and
- an implementing Directive which would establish an initial positive list of foodstuffs which could be treated with ionizing radiation.
Full harmonization would therefore be achieved only with the entry into force of the final positive list. Until that date, Member States could maintain existing authorizations concerning the treatment of foodstuffs with ionizing radiation provided that
- the treatment of the foodstuff concerned has been subject to a favourable opinion of the Scientific Committee for Food;
- the overall average absorbed radiation dose does not exceed the limit values recommended by the Scientific Committee for Food;
- ionizing radiation and placing on the market are effected in accordance with the framework Directive;
- such authorizations are notified to the Commission and the other Member States.
Likewise, Member States could, in compliance with the rules of the Treaty, continue to apply existing national restrictions or bans on ionizing radiation of foodstuffs and food ingredients and on trade in irradiated foodstuffs provided that the foodstuff or food ingredient does not appear on the positive list established by the implementing Directive.
The framework directive would lay down the following conditions for authorizing food irradiation:
Food irradiation may be authorized only if:
- there is a reasonable technological need;
- it presents no health hazard and is carried out under the conditions proposed;
- it is of benefit to the consumer;
- it is not used as a substitute for hygiene and health practices or for good manufacturing or agricultural practice.
Food irradiation may be used only for the following purposes:
- to reduce the incidence of food-borne disease by destroying pathogenic organisms;
- to reduce spoilage of foods by retarding or arresting decay processes and destroying spoilage organisms;
- to reduce loss of foods by premature ripening, germination or sprouting;
- to rid foods of organisms harmful to plant or plant products.
The initial Community positive list of foods that may be treated with ionizing radiation, together with the maximum doses authorized for this purpose, would be limited to dried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings. Such products, if not treated, are frequently contaminated and/or infested with organisms harmful to human health, and the alternative form of treatment by using fumigants is no longer allowed because of the toxic potential of their residues.
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