25 May 2013

Irradiated tomatoes and capsicum imports approved

6:30 pm on 25 May 2013

Irradiated tomatoes and capsicums imported from Australia could be on supermarket shelves in New Zealand within weeks.

Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye and her Australian counterparts have decided not to review the decision that approved irradiation for the produce.

Ms Kaye says she's investigating what can be done to make sure it's labelled as such at point-of-sale in New Zealand.

Her comments follow a majority decision by herself and Australian food safety officials not to review the recommendation by the regulatory body Food Standards Australia New Zealand to allow the irradiation.

Food that has been irradiated has been subjected to ionising radiation which kills off bacteria and pests and can also delay the ripening process.

Ms Kaye says the process involves rigorous analysis of the scientific evidence, and it's her view that irradiated food is safe to eat.

She says people dining out at restaurants can ask if the food they're ordering has been irradiated.

Before the first irradiated tomatoes and capsicums arrive, New Zealand will have to alter an import health standard - the minister says that will be in June or July.

New Zealand already imports irradiated mangoes and lychees.

Green Party agricultural spokesperson Steffan Browning says New Zealand does not irradiate home-grown produce, so it should not be imported.