Sierra Club of Canada

Action Alert


December 12, 2002
(updated March, 2003)

GOVERNMENT PROPOSES TO EXPAND FOOD IRRADIATION

From: Dave Martin, Sierra Club of Canada
To: Organizations & Individuals Concerned about Food Quality and Nuclear Hazards




On November 23, 2002, Health Canada posted proposed new regulations to extend the use of food irradiation in Canada to include ground beef, poultry, shrimp and prawns, and mangoes.

The proposed new regulations are amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations (1094 - Food Irradiation), under the Food and Drugs Act.

The deadline for comments is Friday March 21, 2003 (Update: It has been reported that Health Canada will now accept comments until March 31, 2003).


As noted in the Canada Gazette (November 23, 2002), comments should be submitted to: Mr. Ronald Burke, Director , Bureau of Food Regulatory, Department of Health, Rm. 2395, 07002C1, Health Protection Building, Tunneyís Pasture, Ottawa, ON K1A 0L2 Tel: 613-957-1828 fax: 613-941-3537 e-mail: sche-ann@hc-sc.gc.ca

The Health Canada contact in Ottawa is: Karen McIntyre, Acting Director, Bureau of Food Policy Integration, Health Canada tel: 613-946-4591


CONSULTATION MEETING INFORMATION

Sierra Club of Canada's letter to the federal Minister of Health concerning Health Canada's limiting of public consultation on the proposed expansion of food irradiation in Canada:

Click Here


Sierra Club of Canada Presentation to the Toronto Consultation Meeting on the Health Canada Proposal to Expand Food Irradiation, December 10, 2002:

Click Here



BACKGROUND

Food irradiation is a method of food preservation in which foods are exposed to gamma radiation from Cobalt 60, Cesium 137 or an electron accelerator. The gamma radiation can sterilize or kill insects, and kill fungi and some bacteria that live in foods. Smaller doses can prevent sprouting or potatoes and onions, and delay the ripening of certain fruits. Irradiation can increase the storage life of some foods, allowing importers and distributors to ship foods further and store them longer. These foods do not become radioactive, but contrary to the conclusions of Health Canada, we believe that there are serious risks and drawbacks to the use of this technology...

  • Chemical by-products called "unique radiolytic products" (URPs) are created in foods by irradiation. Some scientific studies carried out on URPs link serious health risks with the consumption of irradiated foods.

  • Irradiated foods are less nutritious than fresh foods because radiation damages some vitamins, amino acids and fatty acids. Normal cooking methods and storage of foods will also cause nutritional losses, but irradiation plus cooking and storage decreases the nutritional value even more. Many vitamins are obtained from fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Irradiation has been hailed as an alternative to pesticides. However, at best irradiation might replace some post-harvest uses since pesticides will still be used in the field. Studies have not been done to determine the consequences of irradiating the pesticide residues commonly found in foods.

  • Irradiation will not replace many additives commonly used in processed foods. In fact, some additives need to be used in combination with irradiation to control undesirable side-effects.

  • Irradiation of poultry is being proposed as a means for preventing salmonella food poisoning. In fact, less than 20% of salmonella poisoning cases can be traced back to poultry. A more effective solution is education about proper storage, handling and cooking of all foods which may carry the salmonella bacteria.

  • Irradiation can actually cause food poisoning since treated foods may be contaminated but appear fresh. Microorganisms which normally cause meat to look or smell spoiled may be killed by irradiation, yet hardier bacteria, such as the one causing botulism food poisoning, may survive. Some organisms may even mutate when irradiated, forming new, more radiation-resistant strains.

  • Aflatoxin is a toxic and carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substance produced by a bacteria which inhabits damp grains, beans and nuts. Aflatoxin poisoning is a major cause of death in Asia and Africa. Irradiation of this bacteria actually causes it to produce more aflatoxin. Building dry storage facilities is a more practical way to control this organism.

  • Increased use of food irradiation will increase occupational and environmental hazards. The level of gamma radiation inside an operating irradiation facility is anywhere from ten to hundreds of times the level that would kill a human in a single short exposure. The gamma source for irradiation must be replaced regularly, so the risk of transportation accidents increases with time. Spent gamma sources also become radioactive waste, and there is still no acceptable method of long-term radioactive waste management.

The Sierra Club of Canada, in cooperation with other organizations and activists is preparing a more detailed analysis, which we would be happy to share, as a basis for submissions. Please contact:

Shawn-Patrick Stensil
Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout
613-789-3634
info@cnp.ca




Sierra Club of Canada's letter to the federal Minister of Health concerning Health Canada's limiting of public consultation on the proposed expansion of food irradiation in Canada:

Click Here


Sierra Club of Canada Presentation to the Toronto Consultation Meeting on the Health Canada Proposal to Expand Food Irradiation, December 10, 2002:

Click Here





The proposed regulations and the Health Canada propaganda can be found as follows:


Canada Gazette - November 23, 2002
[see the regulations section or search the page using 'irradiation' as the keyword]

text version: http://www.canada.gc.ca/gazette/part1/ascII/g1-13647_e.txt

pdf version:  http://www.canada.gc.ca/gazette/part1/pdf/g1-13647.pdf


Health Canada Pre-Publication Notice of Reg’s - November 20, 2002

html version: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/food-aliment/friia-raaii/food_drugs-aliments_drogues/part-partie_1/e_109401.html

pdf version: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/food-aliment/friia-raaii/food_drugs-aliments_drogues/part-partie_1/pdf/e_1094.pdf


Health Canada Media Release

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/media/releases/2002/2002_78.htm


Health Canada backgrounder:

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/media/releases/2002/2002_78bk.htm


Dates, times of Consultation Sessions; FAQs according to Health Canada

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/food-aliment/fpi-ipa/e_consult_sessions01.html
or
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/food-aliment/e_index.html


Nuclear Campaign - Sierra Club of Canada
nucaware@web.ca
www.sierraclub.ca/national


SCC > National > Action-Alert > Nuclear-Energy > Food-Irradiation-Alert