Summary: In the pipeline for ten years now, Community legislation on the irradiation of foodstuffs was finally approved on December 8 by the European Parliament/Council of Ministers Conciliation Committee, albeit in greatly watered-down form. The two sides reached an agreement on both a framework Directive specifying measures for manufacturing, marketing, importing and compulsory labelling of irradiated food, along with the licensing of ionisation facilities, and an implementing Directive listing the foodstuffs and food ingredients that may be given irradiation treatment. The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers now have six weeks to rubber-stamp the two proposals. The former has to act by an absolute majority and the latter by a qualified majority. Italy has said it will be voting against.

Framework Directive. The European Commission's original proposal dates back the December 1988 and its main objective is to apply Single Market principles in the food irradiation sector, given that some EU Member States allow this form of treatment and others do not. Food irradiation is currently allowed in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, whereas it is banned in Germany and Sweden. The framework Directive will apply to the manufacture, marketing and importing of irradiated food and food ingredients. Irradiation will be allowed under a number of circumstances: - if it meets a reasonable technological need - if there is no health hazard and it is carried out under strict conditions - if this is in the interest of the consumer - provided it is not used as an alternative for sound hygiene and health practices or for good manufacturing or agricultural practice. Food irradiation may be used solely for certain clearly defined purposes, such as destroying pathogens and thus reducing the risk of food poisoning or, to prevent food perishing, premature ripening or germinating so there is less waste, or even to get rid of organisms that are harmful to plant products. Irradiation of food or food ingredients has to be stated on the label, even when the irradiated ingredients account for less than 1% of the final product. The mention irradiated or treated with ionizing radiation must be featured on the label. And for products sold in bulk, these words must appear on a display or notice. Implementing Directive. The aim of the implementing Directive is to...

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