Food Law News - UK - 2002

FSA Scotland Consultation, 5 March 2002

IRRADIATION - Amendments to the food (Control of Irradiation) Regulations 1990

In February 1999 the European Council and the European Parliament published two EC Directives on foods and food ingredients treated with ionising radiation in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

These Directives harmonise the laws concerning foodstuffs treated with ionising radiation across Member States.

In June 2000, the FSA consulted on a draft Scottish Statutory Instrument - The Food Irradiation Provisions (Scotland) Regulations 2000 which implemented these two EC Directives in Scotland by amending The Food (Control of Irradiation) Regulations 1990 (SI 1990/2490). A consultation package was issued to 118 interested parties including health boards, food and drink consortiums, wholesalers, retailers, Local Authorities, environmental groups, medical organisations, academic institutions and others. Overall, there was broad support for the harmonisation of controls and the development of a positive list of foodstuffs permitted to be treated with ionising radiation. Comments were also received welcoming the removal of labelling exemptions for certain compound ingredients and emphasising the need for more effective labelling.

The Food Irradiation Provisions (Scotland) Regulation 2000 (SSI 2000/309) came into force on 20 September 2000. Similar implementation regulations were introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Following consideration of SSI 2000/309 by the Subordinate Legislation Committee and the Health & Community Care Committee of the Scottish Parliament, several changes were recommended which FSA Scotland agreed to take forward.

These included the clarification of two possible ambiguities resulting in two amendments to the 1990 Regulations. The first of these inserts new wording in Schedule 1, Part I (grant of irradiation licences) in paragraph 1 (f)(i) in order to clarify that the applicant for an irradiation licence has to state how irradiating a particular description of food for a particular purpose would benefit consumers (regulation 5 of the amending SSI).

The second amendment relates to paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 Part II (terms and conditions of irradiation licences). This is now re-written in three sub-paragraphs to make it clearer.

New regulation 6A of SSI 2000/309 details the labelling required on the documents which should accompany irradiated food not intended for sale to the ultimate consumer or catering establishments. It was recommended by the Committees that regulation 6A be re-visited as the Committees considered that it was not entirely clear who would be responsible for a breach of regulation 6A.

The proposed amending SSI removes regulation 6A entirely and instead inserts the documentation requirements for documentation which must accompany irradiated foodstuffs into Schedules 1, 2 and 3, which are concerned with irradiation licences, importation of food and requirements for storage and transportation respectively.

The substance of the existing documentation requirements has not been changed, but it is now clearer what documentation should accompany irradiated foodstuffs at which stages of the distribution/sale chain.

The effect of inserting the documentation requirements into the Schedules is that no person can import, store or transport irradiated foodstuffs without the necessary documentation required in the appropriate Schedules and no person can sell irradiated foodstuffs unless they have been treated, imported, stored or transported in accordance with the Regulations (which includes complying with the documentation requirements).

Therefore, it is clear that the person who is responsible for breaching the documentation requirements can be the importer, storer, transporter or seller depending on the stage in the distribution/sale chain. The amendments to Schedules 1, 2 and 3 are contained in regulations 6(b) and (c), 8(a) and (c) and 9 of the amending SSI.

In addition, the opportunity has been taken to make some minor amendments consisting of the amendment of wording in part III of Schedule 1 to make it clear that amendment may be made to an irradiation licence which covers more than one type of foodstuff (regulation 7 of the amending SSI) and the inclusion of the words 'or territory' after 'country' in a number of places in Schedule 2 (regulation 8(b) of the amending SSI).

Also, the definition of 'the Directives' and 'Directive 1999/3' in regulation 2 have been removed because they were found to be unnecessary (regulation 3 of the amending SSI).

The FSA Scotland seek comments on this proposed amending SSI, a draft version of which is available on the FSA web site.

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