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The FSAI is the Competent Authority for food and food ingredients treated with ionising radiation as governed by EC Directives 1999/2/EC and 1999/3/EC. In its role as Competent Authority, the FSAI monitors the Irish market to ensure that only foods authorised for irradiation within the EU are on sale and that they are labelled correctly.

Fresh strawberries have a relatively short shelf-life which can be extended by treatment with ionising irradiation to reduce the growth of spoilage microorganisms. Though the European Community list of foodstuffs authorised for irradiation (Directive 1999/3/EC) does not include strawberries, they may be legally irradiated in Belgium as existing national authorisations remain in effect until the Community list is completed. While much of the strawberries sold in Ireland are home grown, many are also imported from a variety of sources including non-EU countries.

Foodstuffs irradiated legally under EU or national legislation must be labelled as "irradiated" or "treated with ionising radiation". To determine whether any irradiated strawberries were on the Irish market and if they were properly labelled the FSAI carried out a survey between 28 th April 2003 and 18 th April 2004. A total of 27 samples of imported strawberries were purchased in Dublin city centre. One to two samples were purchased from supermarkets approximately every two weeks, and three samples were provided by a Department of Agriculture and Food produce inspector from Dublin's fruit market in April and May 2003. Irish grown strawberries were on sale from May to October 2003 and therefore, from late May until November, sampling was limited to six samples of USA "King" strawberries of the large Driscoll variety. Overall, there were 3 Dutch, 4 Belgian, 4 Spanish, 10 USA, 4 Israeli and 2 Egyptian samples of strawberries purchased throughout the year (April 2003 to April 2004). In 2003 there were 17 samples tested and in 2004 there were ten.

None of the samples tested were labelled to indicate they had been treated with ionising radiation and they were all tested by the Public Analysts Laboratory (Cork) using the pulsed photostimulated luminescence (PSL) method (EN13751).

The PSL results indicated that none of the 27 strawberry samples tested had been irradiated.

EU reports on food irradiation for 2001, 2002 and the draft report for 2003 indicates there were no records of fresh fruit having been irradiated within the EU, although there was considerable tonnage of irradiated dried fruit. In the UK, 12 samples of strawberries were tested in 2002-2003 but none were found to have been irradiated, and in Germany, 963 samples of fresh fruit were tested between 2001 and 2003 with only two being found to have been irradiated.

Our results, and those of other Member States, suggest that fresh fruit for sale in the EU is generally not irradiated.