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Kelly’s Proposed Moratorium on Irradiated Food is Positive, Much-Needed, Public Citizen Says

May 31, 2000

Kelly’s Proposed Moratorium on Irradiated Food is Positive, Much-Needed, Public Citizen Says

Too Little Is Known About the Long-term Effects of Irradiated Food

NUTLEY, N.J. — New Jersey Assemblyman John Kelly (R-Essex) is right to introduce a bill in the state’s General Assembly calling for a moratorium on the sale and distribution of irradiated food in New Jersey until toxicology studies are conducted demonstrating its safety, Public Citizen said today.

“We support this bill and applaud Assemblyman Kelly’s efforts to protect the citizens of New Jersey,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “No long-term studies have been done to determine the health effects of eating irradiated food. The body of research on irradiated food has yielded conflicting results. However, we do know for sure that irradiation changes the molecular structure of food and destroys vitamins.”

Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, the Government Accountability Project and the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals are leading a campaign on behalf of more than 170 state and national organizations to reverse the federal government s decision to permit food irradiation. Members of the coalition, which includes the Cattlemen’s Legal Fund, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the Center for Food Safety, the Campaign for Biodemocracy, Friends of the Earth, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, worry that food irradiation isn’t safe.

“Public Citizen and the coalition’s efforts to stop food irradiation are commendable, and I am proud to have their support,” Kelly said. “My office has studied this issue for more than 14 years, and irradiated food has not been proven safe for human consumption. Until legitimate long-term research proves its safety, I will lead the fight against irradiated food in New Jersey.”

Dr. Donald B. Louria, chairman emeritus of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, said he is concerned about the effects of irradiated food on the human body.

“One major concern about food irradiation is the potential for chromosomal damage,” Louria said. “There are only two relevant human studies, conducted in India and China, which are inconclusive but worrisome. It would not really be a good idea to feed billions of people around the planet food that might cause chromosomal damage. Think of food irradiation as the equivalent of a new drug. Would any drug for treatment of disease be accepted for general use in the United States based on two controversial and divergent studies carried out overseas? I think not.”