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Food Safety

Food irradiation

Brexit

Notice to stakeholders - Withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU Food Law

Irradiation is physical treatment of food with high-energy ionising radiation to:

  • Destroy micro-organisms, viruses, bacteria or insects

  • Prevent germination and sprouting of potatoes, onions and garlic

  • Slow down ripening and ageing of fruit and vegetables

  • Prolong the shelf life and prevent food-borne diseases in meat, poultry and seafood

Its use is limited but authorised in many countries.

When is food irradiation authorised?

Treating food with ionising radiation may be authorised if:

  • there is reasonable technological need

  • it poses no health hazard

  • it benefits consumers

  • it does not replace hygiene, health or good manufacturing or agricultural practice

Irradiated food or one containing irradiated ingredients must be labelled.

Food irradiation has nothing to do with radioactive contamination of food resulting from a spill or an accident.

Related links

Further information

Annual reports - food irradiation

Reports from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on food and food ingredients treated with ionising radiation:

Approved establishments

Foodstuffs are irradiated in approved facilities:In EU countriesIn non-EU countriesCommission Decision 2002/840/ECCommission Decision 2004/691...

Legislation

Directive 1999/2/EC: General – Bringing together the EU countries' lawsDirective 1999/3/EC: Implementing – EU list of irradiated food and food...