Help Print this page 
Title and reference
Foodstuffs treated with ionising radiation

Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.
Languages and formats available
BG ES CS DA DE ET EL EN FR GA HR IT LV LT HU MT NL PL PT RO SK SL FI SV
HTML html ES html DE html EN html FR html IT
Multilingual display
Text

Foodstuffs treated with ionising radiation

The use of ionisation of foodstuffs is harmonised in the European Union (EU). This method of food preservation is subject to specific conditions.

ACT

Directive 1999/2/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 February 1999 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States concerning foods and food ingredients treated with ionising radiation (framework Directive) (Official Journal L 66 of 13.3.1999).

SUMMARY

This Directive applies to the manufacture, marketing and importation of foods and food ingredients treated with ionising radiation. It does not apply to foodstuffs exposed to ionising radiation generated by measuring or inspection devices within certain specified limits nor to foodstuffs which are prepared for patients requiring sterile diets under medical supervision.

Ionising radiation is used to reduce the number of pathogenic micro-organisms in food ingredients in order to increase the storage life of the end product.

Conditions for application

Irradiated foodstuffs may be placed on the market only if they comply with the Directive. To this end, Annexes I, II and III lay down provisions on:

  • the conditions for authorising food irradiation (technological need, benefit to the consumer, etc.) and permissible purposes (to reduce the incidence of disease, rid foodstuffs of harmful organisms) in addition to the general requirement that foodstuffs must be in a wholesome state and the obligation not to replace hygiene measures. Irradiation may be combined with other chemical treatment, only if the chemical treatment is for different purposes;
  • sources of ionising radiation (gamma rays, X rays and electrons of certain characteristics);
  • dosimetry (determination of the overall average absorbed dose and procedures for measuring it). The Directive also specifies that the maximum radiation dose for foodstuffs may be given in partial doses.

Provision is made for adapting these requirements to scientific and technical progress.

Products covered

Both treatment and placing on the market must comply with the Directive and the dose limits recommended by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health and therefore the list of EU countries' authorisations and the list of approved facilities for the treatment of foods and food ingredients with ionising radiation.

Labelling and packaging

The words irradiated or treated with ionising radiation must appear:

  • on the label or packaging;
  • on the documents which accompany irradiated foodstuffs or foodstuffs containing irradiated ingredients.

In the case of products intended for sale to the ultimate consumer, the information requirements laid down in Council Directive 79/112/EEC on the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs must be complied with. Products not intended for sale to the ultimate consumer must be marked to indicate that they have been irradiated and the name and address of the facility where this was carried out.

Submission of information

EU countries are required to forward the following information to the Commission:

  • the names of the competent national regulatory authorities (responsible for prior approval of irradiation facilities and allocation of a reference number to them) and for inspection of irradiation of foodstuffs;
  • the references of the irradiation facilities approved;
  • the results of checks carried out in the ionising irradiation facilities and at the product marketing stage.

Registration obligations

Irradiation facilities must keep a record for each source of ionising radiation showing the information specified (nature and quantity of foodstuffs irradiated, data for control of the irradiation process, etc.). These records must be kept for five years. Detailed rules on keeping of the register will be adopted by the Commission, assisted by the Standing Committee on the food chain and animal health.

Import arrangements

Foodstuffs may be imported from a non-EU country provided:

  • they comply with the conditions laid down in the framework Directive;
  • they are accompanied by documents showing the name, address and records of an irradiation facility approved by the EU.

The Commission may conclude technical arrangements with non-EU countries on the approval and inspection of irradiation facilities in those countries.

Protection of health

An EU country may contact the Commission if it considers that the irradiation of a foodstuff may endanger human health, even though it meets the requirements of the Directive. The Commission should then consult the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health before adopting an appropriate measure.

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 1999/2/EC

20.3.1999

-

OJ L 66 of 13.3.1999

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003

20.11.2003

-

OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008

11.12.2008

-

OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 1999/2/EC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purpose only.

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on food ingredients treated with ionising radiation for the year 2012. (COM(2014) 52 final of 4.2.2014 - not published in the Official Journal).

In 2012, 24 approved irradiation facilities were operational in 13 EU countries in accordance with Directive 1999/2/EC. No new irradiation facilities have been approved and no approved irradiation facilities have been closed. Five irradiation facilities did not irradiate any food during 2012. A total quantity of 7972 tonnes of products were treated with ionising irradiation in EU countries, 91% of which were irradiated mainly in three of them: Belgium (64.7%), the Netherlands (18.5%) and France (7.7%). The three biggest commodities within the irradiated categories are: frog legs (36%), poultry (35%) and dried aromatic herbs and spices (15%). There has been a slight decrease in the total quantity of products irradiated in the EU compared to the previous year 2011.

List of foods which may be treated with ionising radiation

List of Member States' authorisations of food and food ingredients which may be treated with ionising radiation (Official Journal C 283 of 24.11.2009).

Directive 1999/3/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 February 1999 on the establishment of a Community list of foods and food ingredients treated with ionising radiation (implementing Directive) (Official Journal L 66 of 13.3.1999).

The annex to this Directive contains an initial Community list of foods and food ingredients authorised for irradiation treatment in accordance with the rules laid down in the framework Directive, namely dried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings, and sets a maximum overall average absorbed radiation dose of 10 kilogray (kGy) for this purpose. A gray - Gy - is a derived unit for measuring ionising radiation dose in the International System of Units (SI). It is defined as the absorption of one joule of radiation energy by one kilogram of matter.

EU countries may not hinder the marketing of foodstuffs irradiated in accordance with these two Directives.

Approved irradiation facilities

List of approved facilities for the treatment of foods and food ingredients with ionising radiation in the Member States (According to Article 7(4) of Directive 1999/2/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approximation of the laws of the Member States concerning foods and food ingredients treated with ionising radiation) (Official Journal C 77 of 11.3.2011).

Last updated: 16.06.2014

Top