Consumers, Environmentalists, and Food Safety Activists Oppose Proposed Huisken Meat Irradiation Plant

MINNESOTA SAFE FOOD LINK (Members: Minnesota COACT, Organic
Consumers Association, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, Minnesota Food
Association. Allies: Clean Water Action, Land Stewardship Project, Public Citizen)

NEWS RELEASE: November 21, 2000

Consumers, Environmentalists, and Food Safety Activists Oppose Proposed
Huisken Meat Irradiation Plant

Approval of public industrial development bonds for Huisken Meats to build the first vertically integrated food processing & irradiation plant in
Sauk Rapids would be an economic and public health mistake, according to citizen groups.
Minnesota Safe Food Link will oppose the bonding request at this Monday’s Sauk Rapids City
Council meeting (Nov. 27) at 7 PM.

At 6 PM, the coalition of groups will conduct a public information meeting and news
conference on meat irradiation in the community room at city hall.

“The tests used by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve irradiation
are totally inadequate,” said June Varner of Minnesota COACT and Safe Food Link. She
cites New Jersey Assemblyman John Kelly, author of a bill to require a five year
moratorium on the sale and distribution of irradiated food to allow time for a thorough
safety analysis. The bill passed all committees and will be voted on by the full
legislature in December, she said.

Varner said five of the top tests used by FDA were studied by the University of New
Jersey’s School of Medicine that found them totally deficient. Furthermore, the FDA
ignored statements by its own chemistry and toxicology committees that indicated safety
should be evaluated and that the studies are riddled with a wide variety of problems. The
most serious problem was that in none of the studies was the irradiated food tested in
concentrated form, which violates the basic rules of toxicology testing.

Kelly’s investigation rebuts the arguments that irradiated food was being used in space
by NASA and fed to patients with suppressed immune systems. It turns out that astronauts
ate a diet of 1% irradiated food for one week in their lifetimes and that the patients
were only at one hospital, Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Center, where they ate irradiated
bread, pasta, cake, and snack food.

Calling irradiation “cold or electronic pasteurization” is scientifically
wrong. Pasteurization is the sudden heating and cooling of milk which causes no chemical
change; whereas, irradiation changes the meat’s chemistry to create known carcinogens,
such as benzene and formaldehyde, and decreases the nutritional value of vitamins A,
B-complex, and C. This is due to the bombardment of meat with ionizing radiation at levels
equivalent to 10 million to 1 billion chest X-rays which also destroys taste.

Safe Food Link will ask the Sauk Rapids City Council if it really wants to approve
public bonding for such a high-risk venture. Their arguments include: all other countries,
except one, are not irradiating meat; 70 percent of the New Jersey legislature believe it
should be banned for five years; the U.S. military recommends pressurization; and the
major arguments for irradiation are disproved.

The national significance of the issue makes the council’s decision awesome.