April 18, 2001

Public Citizen Urges Food Industry to Keep
Irradiated Food Out of Stores and Restaurants

Letter Warns 350 of the Largest Corporations of Potential Harm to Customers

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Public Citizen is urging 350 of the largest food companies and industry groups in the United States and throughout the world to refrain from selling irradiated food. In a letter a letter sent last week to the companies and organizations, Public Citizen explained that a vast majority of consumers do not want to eat food that has been exposed to high doses of radiation and that irradiated food could endanger the health of their customers who eat it.

In addition to the letter, Public Citizen sent the largest meatpackers, food processors, retailers, fast-food chains and agribusiness corporations a packet of information explaining the potential hazards of irradiated food. Companies and groups receiving the letter ranged from Burger King, Campbell Soup Company, Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods to the National Chicken Council, the National Restaurant Council and the National Food Processors Association.

"Consumers do not want to eat filth, whether it?s been irradiated or not," said the letter, which was signed by Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "Americans demand and deserve fresh, wholesome, safe food that has been grown and processed in clean environments. The bottom line is that irradiation will not make food cleaner. It merely masks unhygienic slaughtering and processing practices, while corrupting nutritional integrity. . . . We urge your company not to sell irradiated food until the many lingering public health questions have been adequately addressed."

Among its many hazards, irradiation can deplete vitamins and nutrients, form new chemicals that have never been studied for toxicity, and corrupt the flavor and odor of food. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did not properly assess the safety of irradiated food before legalizing it for human consumption, research by Public Citizen has found.

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