Battle against irradiated beef in schools rages on

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Sep 13, 2004
by WLJ
Public Citizen, a national nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, continues to play the part of the Achilles heal for the USDA and its effort to get irradiated beef fully accepted by the country.
Since March 2003, before irradiated beef was approved for the National School Lunch Program, Public Citizen made four separate attempts to persuade the government to provide "more accurate information, about irradiated beef, to food service directors, school officials, and parents." The most recent request was made August 16.
Irradiated beef became available to the National School Lunch Program in January 2004. School officials and food service directors for each district choose whether or not they want to purchase irradiated beef for their schools. Public Citizen advocates that before permitting irradiated beef in school lunch rooms and grocery stores that the public needs to be assured that the product is safe. In other words, that there are no long term affects the meat may have on humans, such as increased risk of colon cancer.
Public Citizen has said it is not satisfied with the information the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are giving school officials, directors, and parents. Public Citizen wants the USDA and FDA to go into further detail of past test results and current data about irradiated beef and its safety requirements for human consumption.
FDA has evaluated the safety of irradiated foods for over 40 years and has found it to be safe for human consumption. Scientific studies have shown that irradiation does not reduce nutritional quality by a significant amount nor does it change the taste, texture, or appearance by any significant degree.
American astronauts have eaten irradiated foods in space since the early 1970s and people with weakened immune systems eat irradiated foods to avoid the chances of a life threatening infection. Some spices sold wholesale in this country are irradiated to eliminate the need for fumigation to control pests.
As a part of irradiated beef's approval, FDA requires that the meat be labeled "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation" and have the symbol for irradiation, a radura, on the package.
Irradiation is not used as a substitute for improper meat manufacturing and handling, but is very affective in killing harmful bacteria and reducing potential hazards.
In 2001 more than 80 grocery stores and meat markets in Florida and Wisconsin pulled irradiated ground beef off the shelves due to poor sales and low consumer interest, representing a test-market failure for the irradiated beef industry. — Matt Summers, WLJ