Food Irradiation Watch supports Gene-Ethics and the Safe Food Institute in their Federal Court challenge to Food Standards Australia New
Zealand’s (FSANZ) processing of Application A1038. Yesterday thecourt placed an injunction on the irradiation of persimmons.
The Bi-National food authority failed to clearly notify the public of its own insertions of major changes to laws surrounding the labelling and documenting of irradiated food within the Application – which was originally published as an application for approval to irradiate persimmons – submitted by the Qld Department of Primary Industries.
Our concerns about this Application are twofold. We question both the safety of irradiated food as well as the legitimacy of the processing of this Application.
Irradiation is the process of exposing food to high energy – ionising – radiation – which changes its molecular structure and causes new chemicals to be formed.
Irradiated food has not been proven safe. No studies of the long term impact of consuming an irradiated diet have been conducted. However, recent Australian experience has seen up to 100 cats develop neurological disorders from consuming irradiated cat food. The irradiation of cat food is now prohibited in Australia. We are greatly concerned about Australia’s push to expand the use of this unnecessary technology on food for humans and other animals.
Furthermore, the Food Standard’s insertion of its own proposed changes to food regulations was highly inappropriate and calls in to question the entire food regulatory regime. We believe that FSANZ should have made a separate Application to review and call for public comment on the major changes it proposed. At the very least, we would expect FSANZ to clearly notify the public about its additions to the Application. No where in the title of the Application, nor in the online Fact Sheet, nor even in the Risk Assessment of the Application are FSANZ’s proposed changes mentioned or they impacts assessed. Finally, we are alarmed by the fact that the Food Regulatory Ministerial Council did nothing to block this Application despite having been made aware of these flaws.
FSANZ has indicated that this is not the first time that it has inserted its own regulatory changes in to another specific Application without public notification. This is not acceptable.
We expect that the Federal Court will agree that Food Standards Australia New Zealand has acted unlawfully in this matter and block the approval of application A1038.
We invite the public to join us in letting FSANZ and our politicians know that the public interest must prevail.
Food irradiation presents a public health risk. We, therefore, call for an immediate ban on irradiated food for both human and animal consumption.
Furtermore, we demand that truth, transparency and public benefit be the driving forces in decisions and processes surrounding our food.
Gene Ethics Media Release – Monday November 14, 2011
FSANZ sued for secrecy on food irradiation law review
Melbourne 14/11/11: Gene Ethics and the Safe Food Institute vs Food Standards Australia NZ (FSANZ) will be heard before Justice Kenny in the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne at 10.15am today -
Monday Nov 14, 2011. The applicants claim FSANZ failed to comply with the law that requires it to give complete and clear public notice.
“We say FSANZ broke the law by inserting a general review of Irradiated Food Standard 1.5.3, without public notice, into a Queensland Government application only to irradiate persimmons (proposal A1038),” says Gene Ethics Director Bob Phelps.
“In our view, FSANZ should at the very least have mentioned the general review in the title of the amended application and in related documents and reports, but it didn’t.
“Ideally, FSANZ would have separately published its proposed general review of the food irradiation standard and told the public of their right to comment.
“FSANZ refused our request for both applications to be re-advertised and re-assessed separately so we had no option but to seek a remedy through the courts.
“This is a public interest case as the general review of Food Irradiation law would weaken irradiated food labelling and record-keeping requirements.
“We consider this an important case as FSANZ admits it had also buried its own general revisions to Food Standard 1.5.2 on genetically manipulated foods within another specific application. We still do not know the extent of those changes or how they were assessed,” Mr Phelps says.
FSANZ CEO Steve McCutcheon noted Gene Ethics’ concerns that: “the title of the Application, ‘Irradiation of Persimmons’ might be misleading. FSANZ will consider whether it is appropriate or practical to change procedures for identifying applications in order to provide additional information about an application that has an extended purpose.”
FSANZ Final Approval document also said: “… the NZ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry suggested that for transparency, the amendments should be communicated in the title of the consultation to indicate to stakeholders the additional reforms proposed to the Standard in Application A1038.” P20. “We wholeheartedly agree.”
And belatedly the Approval says: “FSANZ has amended the description of the Application in the Work Plan and for any future references to the description/purpose of this Application.” P21
“We seek a judgement from the court that requires FSANZ to give full and fair public notice of all future applications,” Phelps says.
Safe Food Institute Director, Scott Kinnear says, “From our perspective, this does not go far enough and we challenge FSANZ to reprocess the applications separately. Some scientific evidence suggests that irradiated food may be harmful. Meticulous record-keeping and honest labels are essential to ensuring any public health impacts are detected.
“Yet we missed out on making a submission because the general review of Standard 1.5.3 was hidden behind persimmons.
“We did not know because FSANZ failed to tell us of proposed general changes to Standard 1.5.3 in its media release, notice to subscribers, Administrative and Risk Assessment Reports, FSANZ News and Notification Circulars and in the Fact Sheet. We think FSANZ omissions amounted to misleading and deceptive conduct.
“It will be a big win for the public interest if the court decides that FSANZ must always give separate, full and clear notice of future applications for general amendments to the Food Standard,” Mr Kinnear concludes.
To read the food standards proposal go here: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/foodstandards/applications/applicationa1038irra4655.cfm