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Editorial: Zapped fruit now standard but consumers need to know

5:00 AM Monday Oct 27, 2014

Irradiated fruit and vegetables for sale. Photo / NZME.

Twenty years ago, the prospect of irradiated fruit and vegetables from Australia going on sale here would have attracted strong opposition. 

At that time, opponents contended that irradiation would affect the appearance of food and deplete its vitamin content. So deep-seated was the concern that a public outcry stopped plans to build irradiation plants at Tokoroa and Mangakino.

Now, things are very different. Any qualms about the looming import of 11 types of fruit and vegetables from Queensland must focus on consumers being made fully aware that they have been bombarded with gamma rays.

The process was, in fact, declared safe by our regulator of food standards, a joint authority for New Zealand and Australia, more than a decade ago. 

That decision paid heed to increasing scientific evidence, as well as the desirability of replacing the chemical fumigation of pests and micro-organisms. 

Nonetheless, the fear of a consumer backlash initially limited imports to tropical fruits, such as papaya and mangoes, and spices.

Only last year was a standard food item in the form of tomatoes added to this list.

Now, with an application by Queensland's Department of Agriculture to move much further along this path by irradiating the likes of apples, apricots, peaches and zucchini, the time is right to ensure consumers will have the knowledge necessary to make a fully informed purchase.

History does not inspire total confidence. Under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, irradiated food must be clearly labelled with signs or stickers showing it has undergone the treatment. 

But eight years ago, Australian mangoes appeared in Auckland fruit shops without stickers saying they had been zapped.

The mangoes came in appropriately labelled boxes and were cleared by quarantine officials. But stickers were not on the fruit when they were sold. Other mangoes featured stickers with minute type. Quite clearly, that is untenable. Shoppers must be better served. 

Kevin Nalder, of the Fresh Produce Importers Association, is wrong to suggest labelling is outdated because it is only one of the main issues that might concern customers. 

Indeed, the need for disclosure will escalate with the type of fruit and vegetables that appear on everybody's shopping list. And that requirement must extend beyond the sale of basic items.

Many of the irradiated fruit, which are expected to be approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand in April, are staples in fruit salads, juices and smoothies. 

It is reasonable for the labels on such items to warn that they include irradiated fruit. Similarly, it should not be out of the question for restaurant menus and fast-food outlets to advise that their dishes, burgers or pizzas contain irradiated products. 

Indeed, the food standards code applies to food that contains irradiated ingredients or components. 

But in the case of tomatoes, there has been insufficient evidence of this information being supplied to customers.

Mr Nalder is right when he says it is now well established that irradiation is safe. Equally, the threat posed by the Queensland fruit fly should never be underestimated. This country's horticultural industry is particularly vulnerable. In 1998, an outbreak of Mediterranean fruit fly led several countries to restrict New Zealand exports.

Nevertheless, consumers have the right to make up their own mind about irradiated fruit and vegetables whether they are in basic or processed form. They can do this only if they are fully informed. In all likelihood, importers need not fear a backlash. Clear and honest labelling will simply confirm that most people are ready to set aside any of the concerns they might once have had about irradiated food.

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After careful analysis of the fossil of the mango leaf and leaves of modern plants, the BISP scientist found many of the fossil leaf characters to be similar to mangifera.

An extensive study of the anatomy and morphology of several modern-day species of the genus mangifera with the fossil samples had reinforced the concept that its centre of origin is Northeast India, from where it spread into neighbouring areas, says Dr. Mehrotra. 

The genus is believed to have disseminated into neighb…

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Come this summer pamper your loved ones abroad with a box of delicious mangoes through DHL’s Express Easy Mango service, a unique one-stop-shop and hassle-free service for gifting mangoes all across the world.

This unique service by DHL Express, the world’s leading express company, allows customers to send mangoes from India across the world to the following countries Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Hong Kong, Italy, Luxemburg, Maldives, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Qatar Singapore, Switzerland and Sweden.

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