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FDA Bows to Pressure from Citizen Groups

May 27, 1999

FDA Bows to Pressure from Citizen Groups

Deadline for Commenting on Food Irradiation Labeling Extended

Public Citizen and allied groups have won a 60-day extension from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the comment period on weakening the labeling laws for irradiated food. The FDA has received more than 8,000 comments and petition signatures, most of which were in favor of retaining labeling of foods exposed to radiation.

“This is democracy at work,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project. “People have a right to know if their food has been exposed to radiation and this extension will give us an opportunity to organize an even larger public response.”

The FDA has approved irradiation for a large number of foods, despite no long-term studies on its health effects. The FDA docket on irradiated food labeling is the result of an amendment to a 1997 FDA Act to eliminate the labeling of irradiated food. This amendment was rammed through with the support of agribusiness and the nuclear industry, which know that the public will not purchase food that is labeled as irradiated.

Removing labels would open the flood gates for irradiated food. Consumers who are concerned about the potential threats from eating food exposed to cobalt-60 or cesium-137 would have no way of knowing which products to buy.

“This is another case of Congress protecting factory farming, rather than looking out for the interests of consumers,” Hauter said. “Irradiation is not the answer to food safety. Stopping the unsanitary practices that are allowed at slaughterhouses is the way to keep contaminated meat from harming human health.”