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FDA Legalized Food Irradiation Without Adequately Evaluating Its Risks, Dismissed Evidence of Serious Public Health Hazards

Oct. 3, 2000

FDA Legalized Food Irradiation Without Adequately Evaluating Its Risks, Dismissed Evidence of Serious Public Health Hazards

Groups Call on FDA to Stop Irradiation and Congress to Investigate

WASHINGTON, D.C. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has legalized the irradiation of fruit, vegetables, meat and eggs while ignoring federal safety regulations and relying on dozens of tests that the agencys own expert scientists have dismissed as invalid, a new report from Public Citizen and the Cancer Prevention Coalition reveals.

“For 17 years, the FDA has knowingly and systematically ignored its own testing protocols — protocols that must be followed before irradiated food can be legalized for human consumption,” said Mark Worth, senior researcher for Public Citizens Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “The FDAs record of regulating food irradiation is an utter embarrassment. The agencys failings should outrage everyone concerned about the wholesomeness of our food supply.”

“The scientific sleight-of-hand perpetuated by the FDA — year after year, decision after decision — sets a new standard for governmental misfeasance,” said Dr. Samuel Epstein, chair of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, and professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois Medical Center-Chicago. “The FDA should be held accountable for abdicating its regulatory mandate to comply with standard testing procedures, while ignoring substantive evidence of public health hazards.

“The day will soon come,” Epstein said, “when international opposition to American exports of irradiated food will surpass that of genetically engineered food. If Congress fails to ban irradiated food, American farmers, ranchers and the economy could pay a devastating price.”

The new report, A Broken Record: How The FDA LegalizedAnd Continues To Legalize Food Irradiation Without Testing It For Safety, was released today by Public Citizen and the Cancer Prevention Coalition.

The report reveals how the FDA over the past 17 years has ignored its own rules for certifying the safety of irradiated food; relied on more than 100 occasions on research declared “deficient” by FDA toxicologists, and, along with other federal agencies, misled Congress about the safety of irradiated food.

Moreover, the FDA has systematically dismissed evidence that irradiated food may not be safe for human consumption. Much of this evidence, which suggests that irradiated food can cause mutations of genetic material and be toxic, resulted from government-funded research submitted to the FDA and members of Congress as early as 1968.

Public Citizen and the Cancer Prevention Coalition are calling for the revocation of all food irradiation permits and a full congressional investigation into the FDAs role in regulating irradiated food.

“FDA bureaucrats must abide by their legal and moral responsibilities to ensure that American families have safe food on their tables,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizens Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Regulatory systems at the FDA have broken down completely. It is no wonder that most Americans do not trust their government to do the right thing. We should never see another fiasco like this.”

“This report underscores the need for a ban on the sale and distribution of irradiated food, which I have proposed in my home state,” said New Jersey Assemblyman John Kelly (R-Essex). “I hope that other states — and Congress — will follow our lead.”

Other speakers at todays news conference included Alice Slater of the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment; Felicia Nestor, Esq., of the Government Accountability Project; and Kitty Tucker, Esq., of the Institute for Health and Energy.

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