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Closure of Irradiation Plant Is a Victory for Community, Consumers

April 26, 2005

Closure of Irradiation Plant Is a Victory for Community, Consumers

Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Director, Public Citizen’s Food Program

The announcement by CFC Logistics that it plans to shut down its controversial Milford Township, Pa., food irradiation facility is great news, not only for the community surrounding this facility but also for consumers who do not want their food to be irradiated. The closure serves as an example of how empowered citizens can triumph in the end.

This facility, which used radioactive cobalt 60 to irradiate food, brought unwanted risk to its neighbors so that a company could cash in on a questionable and unnecessary “treatment” for food. Residents were rightly concerned about the highly radioactive material being transported through the community and raised questions as to whether it was adequately secured.

CFC Logistics joins SureBeam, formerly the largest irradiation company in the United States that went bankrupt and closed its facilities in 2003, in demonstrating that despite aggressive promotion by both industry and government, there is no consumer demand for irradiated food. CFC was planning to provide the irradiation for ground beef purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the National School Lunch Program – a plan that did not materialize because schools questioned health impacts on children and did not want to pay for the higher-priced irradiated meat. Irradiation exposes food to a high dose of ionizing radiation, which results in the formation of chemical byproducts, some of which have been found to promote cancer development and cause cellular damage in rats, and cause genetic and cellular damage to human cells.

Instead, school systems across the country have adopted policies banning irradiated food from their cafeterias, and school administrators in countless other districts have decided that proper cooking of ground beef is a better alternative to serving children irradiated food whose long-term health impacts are not yet known.

Despite this plant’s closure, CFC still must live up to the responsibility it took on when the company opened this plant and safely remove the radioactive cobalt inside this facility.   It is also vital that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which licensed this plant in the face of overwhelming community opposition in 2003, fully disclose to the public how much radioactive material is present at the site and work with the public to develop an adequate removal and cleanup plan.