Irradiated Foods

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Requirements

There are two aspects of food irradiation which are subject to federal controls: safety and labelling. Division 26 of the FDR recognizes food irradiation as a food process.

Permitted Uses

From a safety perspective, Health Canada is responsible for regulations specifying which foods may be irradiated and the treatment levels permitted.

See the table below for the foods which may be irradiated and sold in Canada [B.26.003, FDR].

Table - Irradiated Foods Which May be Sold in Canada
ItemFoodPurpose of Treatment
1. Potatoes To inhibit sprouting during storage
2. Onions To inhibit sprouting during storage
3. Wheat, flour, whole wheat flour To control insect infestation in stored food
4. Whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasoning preparations To reduce microbial load
5. Fresh raw ground beef To reduce microbial load, including pathogens
6. Frozen raw ground beef To reduce microbial load, including pathogens

For additional information on irradiation of these specific foods and the treatment levels permitted, please see Health Canada's page on Food Irradiation.

It is important to note that Division 26 does not apply to foods exposed to ionizing radiation from a measuring instrument used to determine weight, estimate bulk solids, measure the total solids in liquids or perform other inspection procedures [B.26.002, FDR].

Labelling

Regulations for the labelling of irradiated foods are administered by the CFIA and apply equally to all domestic and imported foods sold in Canada. The labelling regulations as outlined in the FDR require the identification of wholly irradiated foods on the labels of prepackaged products, as well as signs on accompanying bulk displays of irradiated foods. The label or sign must clearly reveal that the food has been irradiated with both a written statement and the following international symbol [B.01.035, FDR]:

Label - irradiated foods

Acceptable written statements to accompany this symbol include "irradiated", "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation" as these statements clearly reveal that the food has been irradiated.

Irradiated ingredients that constitute 10 percent or more of the final food must be identified in the list of ingredients as "irradiated" [B.01.035(6), FDR]. Shipping containers also require the identification of wholly irradiated foods with a written statement such as "irradiated", "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation" but do not require the international symbol [B.01.035(7), (8), FDR]. Advertisements for irradiated foods must clearly reveal that the food has been irradiated [B.01.035(9), FDR].

Legibility and Location

The written statement required on irradiated foods must meet the legibility requirements under the Food and Drugs Act. Additional information on these requirements can be found in the Legibility and Location of Labelling Information.

In the case of a prepackaged irradiated product, the international symbol for irradiation must be applied to the principal display panel of the package [B.01.035(1), FDR]. The international symbol must have an outer diameter that is equal to or greater than the height of the numerical quantity prescribed in the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations for the declaration of net quantity of the package [B.01.035(5), FDR].

Irradiated products offered for sale which are not prepackaged must display a sign that carries the international symbol immediately next to the food [B.01.035(2), FDR]. The international symbol must have an outer diameter of not less than 5 cm [B.01.035(5), FDR].

In addition, the international symbol for irradiation must appear in close proximity on the principal display panel or on the sign to the written statement that clearly reveals that the food has been irradiated such as "irradiated" or "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation" [B.01.035(3), FDR].

Language

The written statement that clearly reveals that the food has been irradiated shall be in both official languages [B.01.035(10), FDR]. Refer to Bilingual Labelling for more information on language requirements.

Additional Information

For more general information on food irradiation, please see the Food Irradiation Consumer Fact Sheet.

For more information on the food safety aspect of food irradiation, including frequently asked questions, please visit Health Canada's webpage on Food Irradiation.

Definitions

Irradiation

Irradiation is defined by the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) as treatment with ionizing radiation [B.26.001, FDR].

Ionizing radiation

Ionizing radiation means,

  1. gamma-radiation from a Cobalt-60 or Cesium-137 source,
  2. X-rays generated from a machine source operated at or below an energy level of 5 MeV, and
  3. electrons generated from a machine source operated at or below an energy level of 10 MeV [B.26.001, FDR].
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