10.10 Regulations and Use of Ionizing Energy in Canada

As you noticed in the required reading (Irradiation and Food Safety), in the U.S. food irradiation is regulated as a "food additive". This is another good example of the differences that exist in the food additive definition between Canada and the U.S. (reviewed in Lesson 4).

In Canada, the use of ionizing energy for irradiation of food is considered as a process and is regulated underDivision 26 of The Food and Drug Act and Regulations. Note that the sources and energy levels of ionizing energy that would be permitted for use in Canada are clearly defined (Section B.26.001). Specified types of information would have to be submitted to the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada when an application is made to treat a specific food commodity with ionizing energy (B.26.004). Specific records would have to be maintained by a food processor employing ionizing energy (B.26.005).

The various options suggested for labelling of irradiated foods are presented in Section 2.14.1 of the "Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising (Links to an external site.)" from the CFIA. Note that in addition to the mandatory basic labelling (Lesson 4), food treated with ionizing radiation MUST also include:

  1. A statement indicating that the food has been "treated by irradiation", or "treated with radiation", or"irradiated".
  2. The "radura" symbol is also used to indicate that a food has been irradiated (see below).
  3. If an irradiated food is used as an ingredient of another food, it must be declared as "irradiated" in the ingredients listing only if it constitutes 10% or more of the final food.
Radura Symbol
Critical Thinking
  • What are the risks and benefits of the application of ionizing radiation or irradiation as a food preservation technology?
  • Conduct a quick search on the internet and view supporting and opposing views and critically evaluate their validity. What is your personal stand on irradiated foods?
  • Visit the Fact Sheet on Food Irradiation by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. There is also a useful link at the end of the fact sheet to Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Food Irradiation on the Health Canada website.
    • The list of approved products is listed in a table in Division 26 of the Food and Drugs Act, Food and Drug Regulations. Note that approval does not necessarily mean that irradiation is actually being used for all of these approved products.
    • Check out the website of the Food Program of Health Canada for the current and proposed regulatory amendments to food irradiation provisions. The approval of new applications of irradiation undergoes a decision-making process similar to what we learned in Lesson 4 for approval of food additives.
    • Can you answer the following questions?
      • What foods are currently approved for treatment by ionizing radiation in Canada?
      • What is the purpose for each approved use, and what is the permitted absorbed dose?
      • What amendments are currently being proposed in Canada?
      • What are the Canadian regulations regarding labeling of irradiated foods or foods containing irradiated ingredients