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Irradiated Hawaiian Fruit Hits the Mainland Public Citizen Urges Consumers to Ask Their Grocers: “Do You Know Where Your Papayas Have Been?”


For Immediate Release:

August 2, 2000

Irradiated Hawaiian Fruit Hits the Mainland
Public Citizen Urges Consumers to Ask Their Grocers:
“Do You Know Where Your Papayas Have Been?”

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Hawaiian papayas and other exotic fruits “treated”with radiation are being made available to American consumers without full disclosure thatthe experimental food products could pose health risks. The irradiated fruit will be soldin Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Portland,San Francisco and Seattle.

“Consumers should not be fooled into thinking that they are buying fresh, healthy,wholesome fruit,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s CriticalMass Energy and Environment Program. “Fruit — in fact, all food — that hasbeen exposed to radiation has been reduced to nutrient-deprived, chemically alteredmush.”

The Hawaiian fruit is being “treated” with equipment manufactured by theTitan Corporation, an erstwhile defense contractor that is using technology originallydesigned for the “Star Wars” program. “Instead of trying to zap enemymissiles, Titan is zapping the vitamins and minerals out of our food supply,” Hautersaid.

Titan calls its irradiation process “electronic pasteurization.” This ismisleading, Hauter said. In pasteurization, food is rapidly heated and cooled.”E-beam,” however, involves shooting food with a stream of electrons travellingnearly the speed of light — the equivalent of tens of millions of chest x-rays. Titanalso inaccurately compares “E-beam” to microwaving. Microwaves use non-ionizingradiation, meaning that food is largely left intact. “E-beam,” however, usesionizing radiation, which obliterates the chemical bonds that hold together the atoms andmolecules in food.

The papayas and other fruits are being irradiated for the purpose of killing orsterilizing fruit flies, a risky proposition given that fruit flies readily mutate whenexposed to radiation.

“We urge consumers to watch for labels and ask their local grocers if the fruitthey’re getting from Hawaii has been irradiated,” Hauter said.

Irradiation has numerous harmful side effects, including the destruction of vitaminsand nutrients, poor flavor and texture, and the generation of chemical compounds whosepossible effects on the body have not been fully studied. Federal government officialshave legalized this technology despite a half-century worth of research revealing serioushealth problems in lab animals that have eaten irradiated food, including premature death,cancer, immune and reproductive problems, liver and kidney dysfunction, and chromosomaldamage.

For more information about this and other Public Citizen issues, visit our Web site atwww.citizen.org.