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Food and Nutrition

Food Irradiation

This section provides information on food irradiation and its regulation in Canada.

Table of Contents

What is food irradiation?

Food irradiation is the treatment of food with a type of radiation energy known as ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation may be used for various reasons depending on the food: it may be used to kill microorganisms that can cause human illness or cause food to spoil; to control insect or parasite infestation; or to slow the ripening or sprouting of fresh fruits and vegetables. The permitted amounts of ionizing radiation are too low to negatively affect the nutritional quality of food and they are too low to cause radioactivity in food.

How is food irradiation regulated?

Food irradiation is strictly regulated under the Food and Drug Regulations. Division 26 (Part B) of these Regulations includes a table that lists the foods that may be irradiated and sold in Canada. The table identifies the permitted types and sources of ionizing radiation, the purpose of treatment, and the permitted absorbed dose of ionizing radiation. Labelling requirements for irradiated foods are set out in Division 1 (Part B) of the Regulations.

Only the following irradiated foods: (1) potatoes, (2) onions, (3) wheat, flour, whole wheat flour, and (4) whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasoning preparations, are currently permitted for sale in Canada.

Division 26 also sets out the submission requirements for those stakeholders seeking approval to irradiate a new food, to use a new source of irradiation or to change a purpose of treatment and/or an absorbed dose for an already permitted food. Should Health Canada be satisfied that the data provided in a submission supports the safety and efficacy of the proposed treatment, then a regulatory proposal to add the food of interest to the Table of Division 26 would be developed and published in Canada Gazette Part I for stakeholder and public consultation. All comments received during this consultation are considered by the Department. Only if and when any significant issues are fully addressed does Health Canada move forward with final approval through a publication in Canada Gazette Part II. The food product is considered legally approved for irradiation treatment once it has been added to the Table of Division 26. Any producer who chooses to use irradiation to treat a food that is listed in the Table may do so provided they respect the irradiation conditions set out in the Table and the necessary labelling requirements.

Proposed regulatory amendments for food irradiation:

To obtain an electronic copy of Update of the Evaluation of the Safety and Efficacy of the Application of Ionizing Radiation to Fresh and Frozen Raw Ground Beef, please contact our publications office or send an e-mail to publications@hc-sc.gc.ca with the subject heading "HPFB BCS Update Evaluation Irradiated Ground Beef-ENG".

Previously Proposed amendments:

Summaries of evaluation process for:

Additional Resources: