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Consumers Union (CU) said yesterday that it is opposed “to a meat industry proposal to omit the labeling of early-processed irradiated meat for American consumers. Today, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will review a petition from the American Meat Institute (AMI) calling for the use of low penetration and low dose electron beam irradiation to reduce levels of bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7 on of the surface of chilled beef carcasses as a ‘processing aid’ rather than its current defined use as an ‘antimicrobial food additive.’

“This shift in classification would permit this kind of irradiation to be used without being labeled. However, FDA has not made this kind of a shift in its definition of irradiation with regard to the foods it regulates. In the meantime, the AMI is asking the USDA to grant this reclassification and omission in irradiation labeling. Consumers Union is providing public comments before FSIS in opposition to the AMI petition and FSIS position.”

"For over a decade, industry has sought to destroy the current labeling requirements for irradiated foods, including attempts to label such foods as ‘pasteurized,’ ” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Senior Scientist and Policy Analyst, Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “Consumers have a right to know if their meat is irradiated at any stage of its processing.”

KC's View:
Busy week for Consumers Union…

I’m hardly an expert in this area, but smart people who I tend to trust have told me that irradiation would address many of the food safety issues that we’ve been facing in this country. These same people say that Consumers Union is off base if well intentioned with its objections to using a new name for irradiation.

I believe in labeling and transparency … but I also believe in using technology wherever possible to make our foods safer. We have to find a balance that works.