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Irradiated Foodstuffs: Draft Guidelines on Monitoring and Control Published for Comment

October 30, 2012

Department of Health

Comment has been invited on draft guidelines for the monitoring and control of the foodstuffs irradiation process.

The draft guidelines were published in notice R519 of Government Gazette 35518 dated 23 July 2012.

According to the notice, regulation 2 of the 1983 regulations governing irradiated foodstuffs will be amended in order to ensure that the monitoring and control of the food irradiation process is appropriately informed.

The guidelines will be introduced as “another tool in increasing trust in the manner in which food irradiation is controlled” with a view to extending the shelf-life of the foodstuffs concerned in a manner that is safe and effective.

They acknowledge that − because of the difficulty in establishing whether or not a foodstuff has been irradiated and the amount of radiation applied – it is the process of irradiation that is controlled rather than the “presence of radiolytic products” in retail and wholesale outlets.

Developed under Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act 54 of 1972, the draft guidelines include fundamental principles underpinning foodstuff irradiation.

According to an introduction to the document concerned, measures necessary for controlling food irradiation are dependent on a comprehensive understanding of these principles.

With this in mind, the draft guidelines also include a checklist aimed at assisting environmental health officers in monitoring foodstuff irradiation at local authority level.

Reference is made to the following:

• regulations made under Hazardous Substances Act 15 of 1973 regarding:
– the licensing of irradiation facilities;
– the training, experience and qualifications of irradiation operators; and
– radiological safety;
• regulation R146 of 1 March 2010 made under the Foodstuffs Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act regarding the labelling of irradiated foodstuffs with a view to ensuring that consumers are not misled and are able to make informed choices; and
• regulation R918 of 30 July 1999 made under Health Act 63 of 1977 governing general hygiene requirements for food premises in which irradiated foods are handled and the vehicles in which they are transported;

According to the draft guidelines, existing regulations do not directly address the importation of irradiated foodstuffs.

The deadline for substantiated submissions on the proposed guidelines has been set at three months from the date on which they were gazetted.