EU: Concilliation committee clinches food irridiation law

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 18, 1998) Long-awaited European Union legislation on the irradiation of food was approved on December 8, by the joint Parliament/Council Conciliation Committee. The full Parliament is expected to adopt the text in January at about the same time as the Council.

(504.4966) WISE Amsterdam - The "conciliation committee" had been created to iron out disagreements between the EU governments and the European Parliament. It agreed on the proposed EU law laying down rules on irradiation as well as a list of foods which may be treated with ionising radiation. The original Commission proposal was made in 1988. Parliament held a first reading in 1989, but the second reading was held up until February this year because positions had been too controversial.

Some EU member-states (France, UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium) currently authorise the irradiation of foods and food ingredients while others (Germany, Sweden) ban it. The aim is to "harmonize national laws", meaning force countries to allow food irridiation.

The initial EU list of foods which may be treated with ionising radiation is limited to dried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings. Other foods can only be added to the list via the codecision procedure. A full list of products which may be irridiated will be ready in the year 2000.

Under this agreement, food irradiation may be authorised only if "there is a reasonable technological need, it presents no health hazard and is of benefit to the consumer." It may not be used as a substitude for "good hygiene and health practices or for good manufacuring or agricultural practice," the EU statement said.
The treatment of foods with ionising radiation - even when such an ingredient constitutes less than one percent of the finished product - will have to be mentioned on the label. (for background on risks and dangers of food irridiation, see WISE News Communique 486.4825, 6 February 1998)


  • Die Tageszeitung (FRG), 21 November
  • Reuters, 10 December 1998

Contact: Green Group in European Parliament