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Consumer Group Urges Recall of Mislabeled Meat Patties

June 1, 2001

Consumer Group Urges Recall of Mislabeled Meat Patties

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? In letters sent this week to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Public Citizen requested that the agencies contact Huisken Meats of Sioux Falls, S.D., to initiate a recall of all of irradiated meat patties that are improperly labeled.

Under current food labeling regulations, the packaging for foods that have been irradiated must display the international symbol for irradiation, called the radura, accompanied with the phrase “treated by irradiation” or “treated with irradiation.” The Huisken packages display the phrase “irradiated for food safety,” which is clearly not permitted by current regulations.

“The food irradiation industry has been pushing the envelope of current labeling regulations,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “The industry has been working very hard in recent years to undermine the labeling requirements for irradiated foods. They want to call the process by such euphemisms as ?cold pasteurization? and ?electronic pasteurization? ? terms designed to mislead consumers. We have been compelled to challenge advertising that has used these misleading terms. Now we have an example of a company that is being so brazen as to violate the labeling regulations on the packaging itself. Huisken Meats has been the primary culprit in all of these deceptive schemes. Both the FDA and the USDA should put an end to this.”

In recent actions, Public Citizen filed complaints with both the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission against Huisken Meats for deceptive advertising on its Web site, and against Omaha Steaks for not informing consumers in its catalog that its meat patties were irradiated.

Public Citizen has also been in the forefront of challenging the expansion of irradiation to treat foods. The consumer organization has criticized the FDA for not following its own protocols for approving irradiation as a technology to treat foods and has called into question whether irradiated foods are safe to eat. It has also challenged a number of industry petitions pending at the FDA that seek to expand the use of irradiation, and has also taken the fight to the international arena by criticizing attempts by the Codex Alimentarius Commission ? the international food standards body ? to raise the caps on radiation doses used to irradiate foods.

“We strongly believe that the jury is still out on whether irradiated foods are really safe to eat,” Hauter said. “There have been some recent studies conducted by German scientists that pointed to some alarming findings when chemicals formed after food is irradiated were fed to laboratory animals. These studies showed that genetic damage could be a side effect of eating irradiated foods. This runs counter to Huisken?s editorial on its package labeling.”