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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1520

Senator MACKLIN —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that the European Parliament has called for member states of the European Economic Community to ban the irradiation of foodstuffs? Is the Minister also aware that the British Medical Association's Board of Science has called for a full-scale international study of the risks of food irradiation before the ban is introduced into the United Kingdom? Does the Minister agree with Sir Arnold Burgen, the leader of the Board of Science team of the British Medical Association, that a full-scale study must include those countries where irradiation is used extensively-in particular, Holland? Will the Government seek to co-operate with other countries to make sure that what Dr John Dawson, head of the British Medical Association's science division, has called clear adverse effects of food irradiation are identified prior to any decision being made with regard to food irradiation in Australia?

Senator TATE —I am not personally aware, nor do I have anything in the brief to indicate that the Minister for Health is aware, of the resolutions emanating from the European Parliament nor resolutions coming from the United Kingdom Board of Science of the British Medical Association and the further elaboration from its Chairman, which Senator Macklin quoted to the Senate. Of course, in saying that I do not suggest in any way that the information conveyed to the Senate in Senator Macklin's question is inaccurate. However, I am not able to base an answer to the question on any assurance that those resolutions have been passed.

Insofar as Senator Macklin suggests that this is a matter for more than one nation state to consider, I would agree. Such studies as are undertaken between nations in regard to this problem of food irradiation obviously ought to be taken into account before any final decision is taken within the Australian community in relation to this important matter. Senator Macklin will be aware not only that the Australian Consumers Association has undertaken an inquiry into this topic but also that a committee of the House of Representatives-I think it is the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation-is undertaking such an examination. As I understand it, Dr Blewett has been in contact with his State counterpart Ministers for health asking them to defer any action on food irradiation regulations pending the outcome of those inquiries.

The first meeting of the National Food Standards Council in April will have all existing National Health and Medical Research Council food standards on its agenda. I understand that Dr Blewett intends asking for consideration of the food irradiation standard to be held over to a later meeting. Uniform adoption by this Council of a food standard requires the unanimous support of all Ministers present, as the honourable senator is no doubt aware. Several State Ministers have already indicated to Dr Blewett that they support his call for deferring any action on food irradiation regulations. So the Senate, and Senator Macklin in particular, can be assured that there will not be any premature or hasty action initiated, or participated in, by this Government. As with other matters where other State Ministers for health are concerned, collaboration and co-operation will be undertaken in the first instance.