Cook-Off Gimmick is Smoke Screen for Questionable Technology; Local Heroes Used to Push Irradiated Meat

Oct. 4, 2002

Cook-Off Gimmick is Smoke Screen for Questionable Technology; Local Heroes Used to Push Irradiated Meat

Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Director, Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program

In a blatant public relations gimmick, D’Agostino Supermarkets and the SureBeam Corporation have invited New York City firefighters to be the celebrity face for irradiated hamburgers at a so-called “Safety Celebration” in Central Park today.

It’s unconscionable to equate the efforts of the city’s firefighters to protect public safety with a technology that is anything but safe. In their efforts to capture the trust and wallets of the Big Apple, SureBeam and D’Agostino are turning consumers into guinea pigs and firefighters into salesmen.

D’Agostino Supermarkets recently announced that it will be carrying hamburgers that have been treated with irradiation by SureBeam. Proponents claim that irradiation makes “safer” food, but irradiation depletes vitamins and creates new chemical byproducts. One class of byproducts called cyclobutanones – which do not occur naturally in any food – has been shown to promote cancer development and cause genetic damage in rats and human cells.

The flurry of meat recalls in recent months illustrates the dangers of a deregulated meat inspection system on the brink of collapse. Instead of requiring their suppliers to slow down slaughter lines and improve sanitary practices in meat plants, supermarkets like D’Agostino are accepting quick-fixes like irradiation that merely mask contamination. For a chain that prides itself on providing quality foods to consumers, irradiated food is an unwise choice.

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