Cargill, AMI push USDA on allowing irradiation

Oct 30, 2009
by DTN
Cargill, AMI push USDA on allowing irradiation

The U.S. beef industry is renewing its push to get USDA to act on a years-old request to use irradiation on beef carcasses to kill harmful pathogens such as E.coli bacteria.

On the sidelines of the Worldwide Food Expo in Chicago, IL, meat industry officials said last Tuesday that irradiating beef carcasses would be an important tool to lessen contamination. But they also said it would still be one of several steps in the prevention process.

“We think the time is now to move forward on this,” Scott Eilert, director of meat technology development at Cargill Inc., told Reuters.

“Carcass irradiation needs to be considered. Right now, it is not seeing the light of day,” he said of USDA’s lack of action on the proposal.

Under the American Meat Institute’s (AMI) proposal, electron beams would be applied to the surface of beef carcasses at meat plants. Because the treatment would not penetrate the meat, proponents claim it should be treated as any other processing aid now in use.

“It is now time for USDA to act on our petition,” Jim Hodges, AMI executive vice president, told Reuters.

The petition was submitted about four years ago and in a Sept. 16, 2009, letter, AMI urged USDA and its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to begin a review of it.

“The requested action pending before USDA is very simple. AMI has asked that FSIS recognize e-beam irradiation as a processing aid when applied to the surface of chilled beef carcasses,” the letter said.

Even if the carcass irradiation process was approved immediately, Cargill’s Eilert said it would be at least three years before the equipment could be installed and in use in meat plants. — DTN