Court Challenge to Persimmon Proposal Sees Injunction

PersimmonsFood 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

Gene Ethics Director Bob Phelps

 

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.

http://www.geneethics.org/

To read the food standards proposal go here: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/foodstandards/applications/applicationa1038irra4655.cfm

GeneEthics Challenges Food Irradiation Standards in Federal Court

Gene Ethics started proceedings in court challenging Food Standards Australia over thier failure to give public notice of an attempted change to food labelling and lack of public notice of changes to a proposal for the irradiation of persimmons. The case highlights the lack of scrutiny being given food approvals, and irradiation in particular.Below is their Media Release – Friday September 16, 2011

FSANZ sued for failure to give public notice

In Gene Ethics and the Safe Food Institute vs Food Standards Australia NZ (FSANZ), the applicants filed a writ in the federal court in Melbourne today. The court issued directions today for a trial on November 14 2011 where the applicants will claim that FSANZ did not comply with the law which required it to give proper public notice of its application for a general review of irradiation food standard 1.5.3.
“We believe FSANZ hid its review, that weakens irradiated food labelling and record-keeping, within a Queensland Government application to irradiate persimmons (A1038),” says Gene Ethics Director Bob Phelps. “In our view, FSANZ should have published its proposed general review of food irradiation standard 1.5.3, separate from the irradiation of persimmons and advised the public accordingly.
In a letter to Gene Ethics, FSANZ CEO Steve McCutcheon wrote: “I note your concern 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.”
“We consider that this is not a trivial matter as FSANZ also now admits that it had previously made its own general revisions to Food Standard 1.5.2 on genetically manipulated foods, within an application made for narrow and specific changes to the GM code,” Mr Phelps says.
FSANZ also reports in its Final Approval of the application that: “… 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
Now, belatedly: “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 say that this does not go far enough and we challenge FSANZ to reprocess the applications separately.
“We missed out on making a submission on changes to the irradiation standard and say that FSANZ should have advertised its proposal separately,” says the Safe Food Institute Director, Scott Kinnear.
“Standard 1.5 covers novel foods that have little history of safe use in the human food supply and we are not satisfied that FSANZ uses rigorous science or the precautionary principle in its safety assessments.
“We will argue that the general public were not properly notified of the real import of proposal A1038 and were misled. It’s our view that FSANZ failed to comply with the law by incorrectly labelling the application. We think their omissions amounted to misleading and deceptive conduct.
“We di not know because FSANZ failed to mention the general changes to Standard 1.5.3 that it proposed to make, in its media release, notice to subscribers, Administrative and Risk Assessment Reports, FSANZ News and Notification Circulars and in the Fact Sheet, still on its website.
“It would be a useful win for the public interest if FSANZ agrees that all future applications for general amendments to the Food Standard always give separate, full and proper notice,” Mr Kinnear concludes.
For interviews: Vivienne Reiner, Source Communications 0432 352 132 A1038 docs at:

http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/foodstandards/applications/applicationa1038irra4655.cfm

FI Watch Calls on Food Standards to Reject Further Irradiation Approvals, Retain Labelling Provisions

protest5smWe are calling on Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to halt all further approvals of food irradiation and retain and strenghen the obligation on producers to label irradiated products. We are calling on our supporters to write to their local members and health ministers ask for the same. Consumers don’t want to eat irradiated food and current labelling requirements are inadequate.

Below is the text of our letter outling the reasons that FSANZ should halt food irradiation approvals. You can find your state health minster’s details here Ministerial Council details

Dear Member of Parliament,

We are writing with great concern regarding the current push to both expand food irradiation in Australia and New Zealand and at the same time weaken labelling requirements for irradiated foods.

As an elected official, we call on you to urge your state’s representatives, as well as federal MPs, on the Ministerial Council to review and reject Application A1038 for the Irradiation of Persimmons.

On July 6, FSANZ announced its intention to approve Application A1038 for the irradiation of persimmons. The Application has now been handed over to the Ministerial Council for consideration. The Council has 60 days to call for action on the matter or the Application will be passed automatically in to law.

Despite being titled “Application A1038 for the Irradiation of Persimmons”, proposed within this Application were a series of major changes to labelling regulations which were not part of the original Application. The public was severely disadvantaged in its ability to respond to these proposals as neither the title nor the “fact sheet” on FSANZ’s website indicated that such regulatory changes were being considered.

For this and many other reasons, FSANZ’s approval is highly flawed and must be stopped. Irradiated food has not been proven safe. Major changes to food labelling regulations should entail an application to amend the Standard, involve rigorous public consultation, and should be processed separately to other matters.

While FSANZ has not approved all of the labelling changes proposed, its approval leaves Australia and New Zealand in a situation in which the labelling requirements for irradiated food are unclear and are not in line with international standards.

The Ministerial Council should:

  • Immediately reject all changes to food labelling regulations included in this Application and require FSANZ to initiate a separate and formal round of investigation and public consultation regarding changes to food labelling regulations if an application to do so has been received.

and

  • Reject the Application as the public health and safety of irradiating persimmons has not been adequately demonstrated and cannot be guaranteed.

Persimmons should not be irradiated. Despite industry claims, food irradiation has not been proven safe. Irradiation is known to deplete vitamin and nutritional content of food and to create “radiolytic” products, such as benzene, peroxides and cyclobutanones.

Between 2008-2009, up to 100 Australian cats developed neurological disorders linked to eating irradiated cat food. The irradiation of cat food is now banned in Australia – but the government is considering expanding the list of approved irradiated foods for humans. While irradiation has been accepted as the root of the problem, the exact cause of the disorder has not yet been pinpointed. Until the cause has been identified, a risk to humans and other animals can not be ruled out. FSANZ can not guarantee the safety of irradiated foods. We believe that the ban on the irradiation of cat food should be extended to all food for human and animal consumption.

FSANZ’s approval is a failure of duty of care to the public and food producers at home and overseas.

Claims that Australia has a safe track record with irradiated food are misleading. FSANZ states that there have been no health consequences associated with the consumption of foods already approved for irradiation in Australia and New Zealand. This is disingenuous, as few of these products are yet on the market in Australia and New Zealand meaning that Australians and New Zealanders do not have a yet have an assessable history of consuming irradiated foods. While no research is presented, or as far as we know available, regarding the safety of Australian and New Zealanders consuming irradiated foods, research and evidence is available regarding the sickness in Australian cats and problems with horses in Australia after eating feed irradiated for quarantine purposes.

FSANZ’s disregard for the potential cumulative impact of consuming an irradiated diet, is highlighted by the fact that FSANZ claims that vitamin and nutritional depletion of irradiated persimmons is insignificant as persimmons make up only a small percentage of the Australian and New Zealand diet. With herbs, spices, and some tropical fruits already approved in Australia and New Zealand, and other irradiation applications already in the pipelines, it is highly irresponsible for FSANZ to make irradiation approvals in isolation. The claim that irradiated foods have been safely consumed for many years is a promotional statement – and not a scientific fact. No long term studies on the consumption of an irradiated diet have been conducted – anywhere.

FSANZ’s approval also fails both Australian producers and overseas consumers. Most of the irradiated persimmons will be for international trade – to countries where persimmons are more commonly eaten. In acknowledging the vitamin and nutritional depletion of irradiated persimmons, FSANZ states that it is beyond its scope of responsibility to make dietary or health risk assessment regarding overseas markets. While claiming that the irradiation approval is a “trade-enabling” act, FSANZ takes no duty of care for the potential health impacts on Australia and New Zealand’s trading partners.

Furthermore, as “trade enabling” acts, this approval and all irradiation approvals have the potential to be detrimental to Australia and New Zealand farmers. While approvals may facilitate export of Australian products to some countries, they also facilitate the importation of irradiated produce from overseas. The case of persimmons is of note as the claim is that irradiation will allow export to SE Asian markets. The largest producer and consumer of persimmons is China. China and other SE Asian nations have the potential to produce persimmons on much greater scale and much more cheaply that Australia and New Zealand. China and SE Asia also do not require irradiation as a trade protocol. However, allowing the irradiation of persimmons will see those markets able to export cheaply produced irradiated persimmons to Australia and New Zealand – and refusing entry would then be seen as a barrier to trade. The cost of flooding of Australian and New Zealand markets with cheap irradiated imports would be far great than any potential gain from expanding exports.

Finally, there is no technological justification for the irradiation of persimmons as no market currently requires persimmons to be irradiated. There are numerous alternatives to irradiation, even for fruit fly disinfestation. Australia should, therefore, be upholding its reputation as a producer of quality products by promoting its potential for producing clean and wholesome food – free from the use of irradiation and other harmful technologies.

Problems with labelling:

As mentioned above, promotional material regarding this Application did not clearly state that the Application included an overhaul of labelling regulations; the proposed labelling changes are neither assessed in the Risk Assessment nor is there any indication that the Applicant for the irradiation of persimmons has sought these labelling changes. FSANZ itself has inappropriately added these proposed changes, which are not directly related to the persimmon application. New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has also raised concern about the appropriateness of the proposed labelling changes entailed in this Application in their submission to the proposal (see: http://www.foodsafety.govt.nz/elibrary/industry/irradiation-of-persimmons-assessment.pdf ).

While FSANZ’s approval does not accept all of the proposed changes, the process entailed was highly questionable and severely disadvantaged public participation in the labelling discussion. We are greatly concerned about FSANZ adding additional proposals to applications it is processing – in effect being the proposed and assessor of the proposal.

Labelling changes, such as those proposed, should be presented to the public in their own application to alter the Standard, not couched within another application. We call for a review of this process and ensurance that due process will be followed from here on.

FSANZ’s approval leave labelling requirements unclear and out of line with global standards.

While we applaud the removal of the labelling example “treated with ionizing electrons” and FSANZ’s finding that this may be confusing, we are greatly concerned that no labelling requirements are proscribed for irradiated foods in this approval. The approval, therefore, leaves unclear what irradiation labelling should entail and how labelling is can be enforced.

Irradiated food must be labelled “irradiated” or “treated with irradiation.”

As it is, at least one Australian food manufacturer, Hilde Hemmes Herbals, currently uses the labelling statement “treated with ionizing electrons”. While the example is proposed to be removed from the Standard as potentially misleading, it is unclear as to whether use of this statement, which has been found to be potentially misleading – and scientifically inaccurate – is permitted under the Standard.

To ensure consumer’s right to know by providing understandable and comprehensive labelling, FSANZ must move beyond presenting potential wording of statements to an enforceable proscribed method of labelling irradiated foods.

International food regulations set by Codex Alimnetarius and standards with our major English language counterparts and trading partners proscribe labelling for irradiated foods. Australian labelling laws should adhere to world standards, which generally requires one or more of the following statements:

(a) “treated with radiation”;

(b) “treated by irradiation”; or

(c) “irradiated”

The international food regulatory body Codex Alimentarius, the EU and other English-speaking trading partners all require mandatory labelling of irradiated foods. Below are their guidelines:

 

CODEX ALIMENTARIUS
GENERAL STANDARD FOR THE LABELLING OF PREPACKAGED FOODS(CODEX STAN 1-1985) Adopted 1985. Amended 1991, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2010.

5.2.1 The label of a food which has been treated with ionizing radiation shall carry a written statement indicating that treatment in close proximity to the name of the food. The use of the international food irradiation symbol, as shown below, is optional, but when it is used, it shall be in close proximity to the name of the food.

5.2.2 When an irradiated product is used as an ingredient in another food, this shall be so declared in the list of ingredients.

5.2.3 When a single ingredient product is prepared from a raw material which has been irradiated, the label of the product shall contain a statement indicating the treatment. (26)

GENERAL STANDARD FOR IRRADIATED FOODS CODEX STAN 106-1983, REV.1-2003

7.3 Foods in Bulk Containers

The declaration of the fact of irradiation should be made clear on the relevant shipping documents. In the case of products sold in bulk to the ultimate consumer, the international logo and the words “irradiated” or “treated with ionizing radiation” should appear together with the name of the product on the container in which products are placed.

The European Union:

 

According to Article 6 of Directive 1999/2/EC any irradiated food or any irradiated food ingredient of a compound food must be labelled with the words “irradiated” or “treated with ionising radiation.”

The United States of America:

Since 1986, all irradiated products must carry the international symbol called a radura. This must also be accompanied by the statement: “Treated with irradiation” or “Treated by irradiation.”

The Food and Drug Administration requires that both the logo and statement appear on packaged foods, bulk containers of unpackaged foods, on placards at the point of purchase (for fresh produce), and on invoices for irradiated ingredients and products sold to food processors.

Processors may add information explaining why irradiation is used; for example, “treated with irradiation to inhibit spoilage” or “treated with irradiation instead of chemicals to control insect infestation.”

Canada:

Canadian law requires both the Radura mark and a written statement about irradiation to be on packaged irradiated products. Non-packaged irradiated products must carry both the Radura symbol and written statement to be “displayed immediately next to the food.”

The Radura symbol is required to “appear in close proximity on the principal display panel” or on the sign to one of the following statements or a written statement that has the same meaning:

(a) “treated with radiation”;

(b) “treated by irradiation”; or

(c) “irradiated”

 

Whether or not you support irradiation, we are sure you would agree that labelling is the only mechanism by which the public can exercise their right to choose and that labelling regulations that fall within international guidelines are the only way to protect our local food producers while allowing them to be competitive in the global market.

It is, therefore, not appropriate for the government to process Application A1038 as it is – both an application to approve the irradiation of persimmons and to change labelling laws, in this case leaving lessening labelling guidelines unclear.

We urge you to act on this to ensure that the public has the opportunity to both engage in robust discussion about labelling regulations and to make informed decisions about what they consume.

A copy of a detailed response to Application A1038, which includes a Risk Assessment Analysis, a review of scientific literature presented, a summary of labelling regulations for our trading partners, and an evaluation of the application’s technological merits is available from Food Irradiation Watch upon request (foodirradiationwatch@yahoo.com.au) – or downloadable from their website www.foodirradiationwatch.org

Attached are the contact details for the state and federal representatives on the Food Regulation Ministerial Council.

We call on you to ensure that Application A1038 is rejected and due process if followed in any attempt to change food labelling regulations.

We look forward to your response regarding these matters and to working with you to keep our food nutritious, healthy and safe for all Australians and New Zealanders.

Thank you,

Robin Taubenfeld

Food Irradiation Watch

foodirradiationwatch@yahoo.com.au

mbl 0411 118 737

Another Approval Pushed Through

In July 2011 Food Standards Australia approved the irradiation of persimmons with a devious back door process that would have removed the legal requirement for labelling. Consumers would have been deprived of the right to choose irradiated foods if this part of the application had been approved. While labelling requirements were not removed, the labelling requirements are now unclear and do not follow international standards.

Major changes to food labelling regulations should entail an application to amend the Standard, involve rigorous public consultation, and should be processed separately to other matters.

The Ministerial Council should:

  • Immediately reject all changes to food labelling regulations included in any application for technology changes
  • require FSANZ to initiate a separate and formal round of investigation and public consultation regarding changes to food labelling regulations if an application to do so has been received
  • reject the application as the public health and safety of irradiating persimmons has not been adequately demonstrated and cannot be guaranteed.

Despite industry claims, food irradiation has not been proven safe. Irradiation is known to deplete vitamin and nutritional content of food and to create “radiolytic” products, such as benzene, peroxides and cyclobutanones.

 

For more information take a look at our Fact Sheets

Cat Deaths Raise Questions for Human Health

cateating2008-9 up to 100 cats became ill, paralyzed and many died as a result of eating imported cat food that had been irradiated. The irradiation process changed the structure of oils in the foods, which caused the breakdown of the myelin nerve sheath, causing neurological problems and in extreme cases death.

As a result the irradiation of cat food was banned in Australia.

Australian agricultural minister Tony Burke has banned irradiating cat food after 30 cats died and 90 cats became ill as a result of neurological disorders brought on by eating imported catfood “Orijen”. The food had been irradiated on arrival to Australia as recommended by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service. Orijen is exported to over 60 countries and only irradiated in Australia. Other treatments including heat treatment are available.

Dr Georgina Child, the Sydney vet that made the link between the illness and irradiated cat food, told the SMH that the ban did not go far enough. She says, “We still don’t know why this problem was unique to cats, and we are not certain why some brands of pet food are affected by irradiation and not others.” She went on to say, “What this does show is that all food that has been irradiated needs to be labelled, which isn’t the case at the moment.”

Food Irradiation Watch are calling for a total ban on food irradiation for both humans and animals, including animal feed. We are also asking for better and comprehensive labelling in the interim.

We urge you to write to the relevant ministers urging this ban. Addresses can be found under the sample letter on this page.

Sydney Morning Herald Article “Irradiation Banned as Cat Theory Proved”

Telegraph Article: “Imported Cat Food Turns Deadly”

News Video of Cat illness & death

Madura Tea Joins Irradiation-Free Status!

Australian company Madura Tea are the latest brand name to commit to irradiation-free status of their popular teas.

They have committed to use only non-irradiated ingredients in all of their products. Madura have gone further to state that they will also not be using irradiated packaging on their products. We welcome them and they will be appearing in the next version of the Irradiation Free Food Guide. Contact us for your free copy!


Irradiation Free Food Guide 3rd Edition in Production

FI Watch is calling on Australian and New Zealand food producers to develop irradiation-free policies and be listed in our ever popular Irradiation Free Food Guide.

YOU can help!

1. Write to your favourite brands and ask them if they have an irradiation-free policy

2. Ask your local supermarket or health food store if they have an irradiation-free policy

3. Let us know what they say by emailing us at foodirradiationwatch@yahoo.com.au

 

You can download a pdf of our current Irradiation Free Food Guide here: 2009 Irradiation Free Food Guide – company listings (pdf)

 

Another Approval Pushed Through

PersimmonsIn July 2011 Food Standards Australia approved the irradiation of persimmons with a devious back door process that would have removed the legal requirement for labelling. Consumers would have been deprived of the right to choose irradiated foods if this part of the application had been approved. While labelling requirements were not removed, the labelling requirements are now unclear and do not follow international standards.

Major changes to food labelling regulations should entail an application to amend the Standard, involve rigorous public consultation, and should be processed separately to other matters.

The Ministerial Council should:

  • Immediately reject all changes to food labelling regulations included in any application for technology changes
  • require FSANZ to initiate a separate and formal round of investigation and public consultation regarding changes to food labelling regulations if an application to do so has been received
  • reject the application as the public health and safety of irradiating persimmons has not been adequately demonstrated and cannot be guaranteed.

Despite industry claims, food irradiation has not been proven safe. Irradiation is known to deplete vitamin and nutritional content of food and to create “radiolytic” products, such as benzene, peroxides and cyclobutanones.

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

Food Irradiation Watch are an independant consumer watchdog, advocating clean, nuclear-free food