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Codex Alimentarius Revised General Standards Allow for Higher Levels of Food Irradiation

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Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post
April 4, 2011

Although the questionable means by which the General Standards For Irradiated Food was ratified are enough cause for concern in and of themselves, the revision of Codex’s position presents an even bigger danger to the food supply than the original version.  This revised policy seems to be part of an ongoing disregard by federal agencies who are charged with protecting the public.  Just recently, the EPA modified their Protective Action Guides for radiation exposure to Americans in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

The revised General Standard For Irradiated Food is remarkable because of its crafty use of technical wording to allow much higher, even limitless, amounts of irradiation in food. Prior to the change in 2003, the limits were set at 10 kGy, an amount of radiation that is the equivalent of 330 million chest x-rays, a procedure that is dangerous in and of itself when only done once. [1]

However, even the limit set prior to 2003 is not as strict as the current FDA regulations and the regulations of most other nations. Currently, the FDA sets limits on the amount of food irradiation on a case-by-case basis with some foods allowed to receive more radiation than others.[2]

Codex, however, makes no such distinction and levels a blanket endorsement of irradiation regardless of the type of food. [3] Nevertheless, most of the upper limits for radiation set by even the FDA (which are themselves intolerable) are lower than those set by Codex.  By FDA standards, only two categories are allowed the pre-2003 Codex 10kGy maximum.

While appearing to retain the previous set limit of 10 kGy, the new Codex standards actually weaken if not remove it completely. By adding the latter half of the phrase that states, “except when necessary to achieve a legitimate technological purpose,” Codex effectively produces a loophole through which irradiation can exceed the limit of 10 kGy. [5]

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Nowhere in the revised standards is there a definition as to what a “legitimate technological purpose” might be. Therefore, there is the distinct possibility and likelihood that food may be irradiated at virtually any dose for whatever purpose declared to be a legitimate technological usage by the producer or the regulator. Indeed, the Codex Standards do not indicate who would even be responsible for determining what a “legitimate technological purpose” might be and makes no mention of the regulatory bodies that might make that decision.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

This may seem remarkable to some, but the regulatory agencies in the United States such as the FDA, USDA, and FTC have largely already become nothing more than enforcement arms for the corporate/government partnership known as the New World Order. They have all but renounced their original purpose of ensuring the safety of the general public. So while it seems likely that Codex might set the standard for what determines a “legitimate technological purpose” and the international regulatory agencies would enforce them, it seems even more probable that the phrase will be left undefined and that various compromised regulatory agencies would decide the outcome of any disputes that may arise. Nevertheless, the window to unfettered use of irradiation is left wide open.

Yet Codex does not stop there. Another manner in which irradiation levels are allowed to reach limitless amounts is through the process of re-irradiation. Codex generally prohibits the re-irradiation of foods that have low moisture content, or those already irradiated in accordance with Codex guidelines. However, this is largely empty language as a loophole similar to the one mentioned above (“except when it is necessary to achieve a legitimate technological purpose”) is provided shortly thereafter.

Codex goes on to say that food is not to be considered as re-irradiated when:

(a) the irradiated food is prepared from materials which have been irradiated at low dose levels for purposes other than food safety, e.g. quarantine control, prevention of sprouting of roots and tubers; (b) the food, containing less than 5% of irradiated ingredient, is irradiated; or when (c) the full dose of ionizing radiation required to achieve the desired effect is applied to the food in more than one increment as part of processing for a specific technological purpose.[6]

According to this statement, food made up of irradiated ingredients can once again be irradiated so long as the irradiated ingredients have been “treated” for “purposes other than food safety.”[7] However, it will not be considered re-irradiated. Likewise, a food can be re-irradiated (though not considered irradiated) as long as less than 5% of its ingredients are irradiated, or if the irradiation process is fulfilled in more than one increment.

Keep in mind, these standards are not in addition to one another, they are separate. This means that an irradiation facility does not have to meet all of these standards to re-irradiate food. They only have to meet one.

Claiming that re-irradiation is for purposes other than hygiene or safety opens the door for a potentially unlimited amount of radiation into the food supply. So does the process of irradiating food over and over again, which in most circles would be called re-irradiation. However, under the Codex Standards, a facility need only claim that the successive irradiating was part of a single process and the food will not be considered re-irradiated.

While the standards do state that the absorbed dose of radiation should not rise above 10 kGy, there are two escape hatches provided by the language in the statement.  The section reads “The cumulative maximum absorbed dose delivered to a food should not exceed 10 kGy as a result of re-irradiation except when it is necessary to achieve a legitimate technological purpose, and should not compromise consumer safety or wholesomeness of the food.”[8]

First, it should be noted that the amount of radiation in the food is not to exceed 10 kGy “as a result of re-irradiation,” not necessarily the irradiation process as a whole. Second, the same loophole exists here as in the standards for irradiation mentioned earlier as the “except when necessary to achieve a legitimate technological purpose” clause appears in this instance as well. [9]

Through the standards on food irradiation set by Codex and its subsequent revisions, Codex clearly facilitates and encourages irradiated food to enter the food supply. Indeed, in concert with guidelines and policy set by the FDA, irradiated food will not only enter the food supply, it will become a staple.


[1] “WTO Codex to Allow Dangerous Levels of Food Irradiation,” Organic Consumers Association. July 10, 2003. http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/071403_wto_irradiation.cfm Accessed May 24, 2010.
[2] Morehouse, Kim M., Komolprasert, Vanee. “Irradiation of Food and Packaging: An Overview.” Food and Drug Administration.http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodIngredientsPackaging/IrradiatedFoodPackaging/ucm081050.htm Accessed May 24, 2010.
[3] General Standard For Irradiated Foods Codex Stan 106-1983, REV.1-2003. http://www.codexalimentarius.net/download/standards/16/CXS_106e.pdf Accessed May 24, 2010.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] General Standard For Irradiated Foods Codex Stan 106-1983, REV.1-2003.http://www.codexalimentarius.net/download/standards/16/CXS_106e.pdf Accessed May 24, 2010.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.

This article was posted: Monday, April 4, 2011 at 9:16 am

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