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Groups File False Advertising Complaint Against Giant Food for Irradiated Ground Beef Sales

June 18, 2003

Groups File False Advertising Complaint Against Giant Food for Irradiated Ground Beef Sales


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Center for Food Safety and Public Citizen today called on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Giant Food’s practices of falsely advertising its irradiated ground beef with misleading endorsements and deceptive signage.

The complaint (click here to view) says that Giant is making false and misleading claims in its advertising pamphlet provided near the irradiated meat case. The pamphlet claims that food irradiation is endorsed by the Mayo Clinic, when, in fact, the Mayo Clinic has never made such an endorsement and the clinic does not endorse any products or processes. Further the pamphlet claims that irradiation is “like milk pasteurization.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has specifically determined that calling irradiation “pasteurization” is misleading, according to its official guidelines for the meat industry. In 2001, Public Citizen and the Center for Food Safety filed similar FTC complaints against several meat and food irradiation companies, which led some of the companies to stop using the term “pasteurization” on its irradiated food. On packages, irradiated food must be labeled as “treated by irradiation” or “treated with radiation,” according to Food and Drug Administration regulations.

“Giant is setting a new standard for deception in marketing,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Enough confusion exists about irradiated food. Stores don’t need to add to it.”

The complaint also details observations by the consumer groups of sales in Giant stores in the Washington, D.C., area since irradiated ground beef was first introduced last fall. They found a regular practice of selling standard ground beef from a case labeled “irradiated ground beef.”

“I could not believe that Giant was openly selling non-irradiated product in the irradiated case – but they were, and shoppers were confused,” said Peter Jenkins, a policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety. “The meat clerk told me when they ran out of irradiated meat they just put the non-irradiated stock in there until they got another shipment of irradiated beef.”

Research indicates that irradiated food may not be safe for human consumption. Irradiation results in the formation of chemicals that are known or suspected to promote cancer and birth defects. New research indicates that irradiation of ground beef can increase the amount of heart-clogging trans fatty acids, according to an article published in Radiation Physics and Chemistry. Further, the process does nothing to remove the feces, urine, vomit and pus that contaminate meat in today’s high-volume, factory-style slaughterhouses and processing plants.