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Zapped vegetables on the Australian tables

Staff writer |
Tomatoes zapped with radiation will be heading Australian dinner tables. The treatment that destroys insects and bacteria was declared safe by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

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It will be used on fresh tomatoes and capsicums, writes The Australian. FSANZ spokeswoman Lorraine Belanger said that irradiated food passed through a radiation field generated by high-energy electron beams, X-rays or gamma rays. Food treted with radiation must be labelled and notices placed at sales areas or on menus.

Queensland's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry wants the option of an alternative fruit fly control after restrictions were imposed on dimethoate and fenthion, two common chemical insecticides.

"Decades of research worldwide has shown that irradiation of food is a safe and effective way to kill bacteria in foods, extend its shelf life and reduces insect infestation," the nation's food regulator said.

Ministers responsible for food regulation have until mid-May to decide on a formal approval. While herbs, spices, some herbal teas, some tropical fruits and persimmons are already allowed to be irradiated, the bulk has been exported rather than eaten in Australia.

Anti-irradiation campaigners, including Friends of the Earth Australia, have raised concerns about potential nutritional deficiencies, immune system disorders, and genetic damage.

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