Leading UK health food companies are continuing to sell irradiated food supplements despite warnings from the Food Standards Agency that they are breaking the law.

Holland & Barrett and Peter Black Healthcare, which sells food supplements under the Red Kooga brand, are reported by the Food Commission to be selling irradiated, unlabelled ginseng, echinacea, wild yam and ginger root extracts. While advocates of food irradiation claim it is a safe method of killing harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, irradiation remains illegal in the UK. Critics believe the possible effects of irradiation are not sufficiently known, and that the technology could be employed by food producers to disguise poor quality food.

If it were permitted, the labelling would be required to state that the supplements contained irradiated ingredients. However, the Food Commission claimed that none of the labels made this declaration, and some even said 'non-irradiated'.

Tim Lobstein, director of the Food Commission, said it was appalling that illegally irradiated products remain on the shelf, and called for companies so flagrantly flouting the law to be penalised.

In a statement one of the companies in question, Holland & Barrett, said it "totally refutes the allegation made by the Food Commission that it has ignored warnings from the FSA regarding irradiated ingredients".

For more information please visit the Food Commission website www.foodcomm.org.uk