A brand of ginger bags has been recalled in Malta due to the use of irradiation in an unauthorized facility.

Natural Ginger bags in 80-gram packages with brand name “Gold kili” and durability date of Sept. 4, 2019, is affected. The product comes from Singapore but the unauthorized irradiation facility is in China.

The Environmental Health Directorate in Malta said following a local sampling program and subsequent analysis the product must not be consumed as it has been subject to irradiation without this being declared on the label. The agency added there is a lack of information on whether the process was performed in an authorized establishment.

In Malta, herbs and spices can be subjected to pathogen-killing irradiation if the process is done in an approved establishment, at the right doses and the final product is labeled as being treated with irradiation.

Latvia also recently made it known through the RASFF portal about the use of irradiation in an unauthorized facility of prickly pear extract from China. Other RASFF alerts about irradiation this year have involved Finland, Belgium and Germany and concern coriander powder from Bangladesh, frozen frogs legs and dried anchovies from Vietnam.

Irradiation is treatment of food with high-energy ionizing radiation to destroy microorganisms, viruses, bacteria or insects; slow down ripening and ageing of fruit and vegetables and prolong shelf life; and prevent foodborne diseases from meat, poultry and seafood.

Food and ingredients authorized for irradiation in the EU are fruits and vegetables including root vegetables, cereal and cereal flakes, rice flour, spices and condiments, fish and shellfish, fresh meats, poultry, frog legs, raw milk camembert, gum arabic, casein/caseinates, egg whites, and blood products. National authorizations for other foodstuffs exist in different member states.

The EU is reviewing the legal framework set in 1999 around food irradiation and received more than 30 submissions during a comment period last year. A public consultation is expected to be the next step.

According to the last report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on food treated with ionizing radiation, in 2015 there were 26 irradiation facilities approved in the European Union in 14 member states. The two main commodities irradiated were frog legs and dried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetables seasoning.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved beef and pork; crustaceans (lobster, shrimp, and crab); some fresh fruits and vegetables; lettuce and spinach; poultry; seeds for sprouting (e.g., for alfalfa sprouts); shell eggs; shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops); and spices and seasoning for irradiation.

The agency requires irradiated foods have the international mark – the Radura symbol – and the statement “Treated with radiation” or “Treated by irradiation” on the label.

Irradiated foods that can be sold in Canada are potatoes, onions, wheat, flour, whole wheat flour, whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasoning preparations and fresh and frozen raw ground beef.

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