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Florida Groups Announce Campaign to Stop Food Irradiation


*Florida Consumer Action Network *

*Florida Peace & Justice Coalition* Public Citizen *

 Press Release

For Immediate Release:

Friday, June 16, 2000

Florida Groups Announce Campaign to
Stop Food Irradiation

Groups Urge Wyndle’s and Deloach’s Meats to Stop Sale ofUnsafe Meat

TAMPA, Fla. — Outraged by the impending sale of irradiated beef in two Floridamarkets, Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN) and Florida Coalition for Peace &Justice (FCPJ) have joined Washington-based Public Citizen’s campaign to stop foodirradiation.

The beef will be sold in Wyndle’s, located in Plant City, and Deloach’s Meats, locatedin Lakeland. Sales of the irradiated meat were slated to begin today, June 16.

Food irradiation, also known as cold pasteurization or electronic pasteurization,exposes food to ionizing radiation at levels equivalent to up to 300 million X-rays. Theidea is to kill bacteria and extend shelf-life, but scientists have found that irradiatedfood can contain new chemicals, called “unique radiolytic products,” that havenot been identified and could pose major health hazards to people who eat the food.Carcinogens including benzene and toluene are also produced by irradiation.

“Irradiated food is filthy food,” said MJ Williamson, an organizer forFlorida Consumer Action Network. “It’s so sad that a trusted, neighborhood store likeWyndle’s can so willingly become a tool of industrial food production lobbyists.”

Because the long-term health effects of consuming irradiated food are equally untested,and because scientists have demonstrated that the ingestion of irradiated food may alsoresult in such problems as chromosomal damage and reproductive dysfunction, the groups areasking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to halt food irradiation until studiesprove that it is safe.

Further, the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service reported that irradiating foodresults in major losses of vitamins A, C, E, and B complex, which are further reduced bycooking. These losses make it harder for the very old, the very young and those withimpaired immune systems to get adequate nutrition.

“Industry is selling consumers a bill of goods,” said Wenonah Hauter,director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Despiteindustry and government claims, food irradiation has not been proven safe. The Americanpublic should not be used as guinea pigs in this ill-fated experiment.”

The groups are also seeking a comprehensive sanitation program in feed lots andpackaging plants nationwide. Meat is regularly contaminated with feces, urine, pus andother contaminants that spread diseases such as E-coli:0157. The food industry is usingirradiation to mask the problem.

“The problem of food-borne illnesses could be solved if industrial-sized meatprocessing facilities were thoroughly sanitized,” said Carol Mosley of Florida Peace& Justice Coalition. “Instead, the industry is asking USDA to sign-off a schemethat allows self-auditing in processing facilities.”

In Minnesota, where irradiated beef has been sold since the beginning of this month,stores are charging consumers up to 75 cents more per pound for irradiated beef thanconventional beef. One store was charging $1.50 more per pound.

“Industry should spend its money wisely by cleaning up its facilities instead ofwasting millions on an ill-fated technology that creates empty calorie food,” saidJessica Vallette Revere, senior organizer and media officer for Public Citizen’sCritical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “This technology is not needed, andconsumers should not be hoodwinked into believing otherwise.”

The coalition plans to hold forums and demonstrations in front of stores proposing tosell irradiated food all over the state. Its efforts will continue until consumers acrossFlorida understand the health risks and environmental damage that come with irradiatedfood.