HC Deb 08 February 1990 vol 166 cc1004-5
14. Mr. Ashley

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has any research evidence on the consumer demand for irradiated food.

Mr. Maclean

I have seen the results of several surveys on consumer demand for irradiated foods. A recent study by the Consumers Association found that about two thirds of consumers might wish to purchase some irradiated foods in the future. Our consumers must be allowed freedom of choice to buy any food they know is safe and must not be dictated to.

Mr. Ashley

Notwithstanding the paeons of praise for irradiation from the Minister some moments ago, may I ask him to confirm that there is great public hostility to rather than demand for irradiation? Will he also confirm that irradiation can expose food to doses of radiation up to 100 million times that of a single chest X-ray and that it can be used to hide contamination in otherwise unsaleable food?

Mr. Maclean

Irradiation cannot be used to disguise unfit food. It is illegal for unfit food to be sold now and it will be illegal in the future. I confirm that 98 per cent. of the public do not want to buy green top milk. We do not dictate to the other 2 per cent. that they cannot have it. They have a right to have it. The same applies to the 8 per cent. who are keen to buy irradiated food and to the 66 per cent. of us who might want to buy it sometimes.