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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 00:26 GMT 01:26 UK
Irradiated food products still on sale
Supplements
Supplements should not contain irradiated ingredients
Health food companies have ignored a series of warnings that they are breaking the law by selling irradiated products, a report claims.

Supporters of food irradiation say it is a safe way of killing harmful bugs, such as E. coli.

But critics say that - like genetic modification - its effects are unproven and the technique could be used to mask poor quality food.


Consumers are being treated as if they are fools

Dr Tim Lobstein
The Food Commission has carried out tests that have found irradiated ingredients in products from two companies that were on sale in July.

The offending ingredients were found in several products from the Good 'N Natural range from Holland and Barrett, and in Red Kooga ginseng capsules produced by Peter Black Healthcare.

The companies have been warned several times that irradiated ginseng should not be sold in the UK.

Even if it were permitted, the label would have to say that the product had been irradiated.

Labels

However, the Food Commission said that it found that none of the labels made the required declaration, and some even said "non-irradiated".

The Food Standards Agency sent a letter to health food companies and trade associations - including Holland and Barrett - in February informing them that irradiated Red Kooga Korean Ginseng had been discovered on sale in the Republic of Ireland.

The FSA said that in its opinion irradiated ginseng did not come into any of the categories permitted in the UK.

It recommended that companies selling ginseng check with their supplies to ensure that the ingredients had not been irradiated.

Tests, commissioned by the BBC and carried out in March, found several products on sale that contained herbs and spices that had been irradiated.

The Food Commission carried out follow-up tests in July to discover whether the FSA warnings had been heeded.

They found that irradiated ginseng was still on sale.

Holland and Barrett had put a sticker over the non-irradiated claim and was selling their products at a discount price.

The company had claimed that irradiated products had been "immediately withdrawn" after the first tests in March.

Allegation refuted

In its publication, the Food Magazine, the Food Commission says: "When companies so obviously ignore the law they need to be penalised."

Director Dr Tim Lobstein told BBC News Online: "It is appalling that illegally irradiated products should remain on the shelf.

"Consumers are being treated as if they are fools."

A statement from Holland and Barrett, said the company "totally refutes the allegation made by the Food Commission that it has ignored warnings from the FSA regarding irradiated ingredients."

It continued: "We were made aware of an infringement of labelling regulations on one of our products on 20 March 2001 and the product was immediately withdrawn from sale.

"We later took the precaution of overstickering the remainder of our range to ensure there was no further breach of labelling regulations."

Alan Clements, managing director of Peter Black Healthcare, told BBC News Online that the company had immediately changed its source of ginseng following the FSA warning.

He said it was possible that the researchers had tested a batch manufactured by the company last year.

See also:

07 Dec 00 | Health
Food claims 'must be honest'
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