For the first time, the Australia and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) has approved the use of irradiation as a means of killing potentially dangerous microbes in food products sold in Australia.

Steritech, the Melbourne-based sterilisation company that operates the only irradiation plant in the country, has been granted the right to irradiate herbs and spices for the domestic market.

ANZFA is also seeking public comment on the application of Surebeam Australia for the approval of the process of irradiating tropical fruits as a precaution against pests such as fruit fly.

The Council of Ministers added that the alternative to irradiation, sterilisation of foodstuffs through ethylene oxide gas, would be phased out by September 2003.