Jan. 24, 2001
Public Citizen Urges Modesto’s Hometown Grocer
to Halt Sale of Irradiated Meat
Studies Indicate Irradiated Food Could Be Harmful
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen is urging the Save Mart grocery store chain in
California’s Central Valley to halt the sale of irradiated meat because of concerns
about its long-term health effects.
When food is irradiated, it receives a high dose of ionizing radiation, which destroys
the bonds that hold molecules together and creates new chemicals that the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet analyzed. Irradiated foods are exposed to varying
amounts of X-rays, depending on what they are; meat is exposed to the equivalent of more
than 200 million chest X-rays. Studies suggest that irradiation depletes vitamins and
nutrients, changes the taste and smell of food, and kills beneficial microorganisms that
can prevent food-borne illnesses.
Further, when legalizing irradiation, the FDA didn’t follow its own safety rules and
ignored evidence suggesting that irradiated food may be harmful to people who eat it,
Public Citizen learned last year. Save Mart began selling irradiated meat in December.
Save Marts are in dozens of California cities, including Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto,
Sacramento, San Jose and Stockton.
“Save Mart and other local grocers should not buy into corporate hype and should
reconsider their decisions to sell irradiated food,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of
Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.
Huisken Meats, which will distribute the irradiated meat to Save Mart, calls its
products “electronic pasteurized,” a phrase that could mislead people into
thinking that irradiated food has undergone the same treatment as milk and other dairy
“Americans have come to expect wholesome, nutritious food from their neighborhood
market — not food that has been chemically altered and may be harmful to their
families,” Hauter said. “Americans won’t have to lower their expectations
if their local stores don’t lower their standards.”
The irradiated meat on sale at Save Mart, which also owns S-Mart and Food Maxx, will be
“treated” by speed-of-light electrons fired from a linear accelerator originally
designed for the “Star Wars” program by the Titan Corporation, a defense
contractor with no experience in the food safety, nutrition or medical fields.