FSA News item, 1 February 2006
In a food supplement enforcement exercise carried out by the Agency with local authorities, half the supplements looked at were either irradiated or had an irradiated ingredient.
The enforcement exercise, which looked at 48 products from a variety of outlets, followed up an Agency survey of 2002, which found evidence of irradiation in food supplements. In the enforcement exercise, carried out in 2003, 11 supplements were completely irradiated and 13 had an irradiated ingredient. Publication of the results was deferred pending enforcement action by local authorities.
Food irradiation is a processing technique that exposes food to electron beams, X-rays or gamma rays, and produces a similar effect to pasteurisation, cooking, or other forms of heat treatment, but with less effect on look and texture.
These findings don't give rise to health concerns but food supplements are not generally allowed to be irradiated. Under UK and EU law, only licensed or approved irradiation facilities may treat specific food products, for a specific purpose and within defined dose limits. They must then be labelled to indicate that they have been irradiated.
It is not known why or where these food supplements were irradiated or what dose was used. None of the supplements were labelled as being treated with ionising radiation.
Local authority enforcement officers visited the companies whose products were irradiated to check what systems they have in place to prevent irradiated products reaching the market. Two companies were given formal cautions.
For further details, see a copy of the summary report on this site at: Irradiated Food Supplements Report