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Public Citizen Wins Victory for America’s School Children


For Immediate Release:

July 19, 2000

Public Citizen Wins Victory for America’s School Children
USDA Says No Irradiated Ground Beef in School Lunches

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announcednew, strict food safety requirements for ground beef processors who want to sell meat tothe government for school lunches. The requirements include a ban on irradiation, aprocess of questionable safety that Public Citizen has been trying to stop.

Irradiation, a process by which food is exposed to large amounts of radiation, is usedto kill bacteria in food, but it doesn’t clean food or remove fecal matter. Further,no studies have shown that a long-term diet of irradiated foods is safe. Research alsoshows that the process can deplete vitamins.

“It’s about time the government puts consumers ahead of corporate specialinterests,” said Wenonah Hauter, director Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy andEnvironment Program. “American parents should be confident that when they send theirchildren to public schools, the food they are served is healthy and nutritious.Irradiation has not been proven safe, and it reduces the nutritional value of food bydepleting vitamins.”

To compete for school lunch contracts in the upcoming 2000-2001 school year, groundbeef plants must comply with stringent microbial testing procedures that include a zerotolerance for E.coli and salmonella bacteria. Additionally, they must incorporateinterventions to reduce pathogens at slaughter and processing plants. Irradiation will notbe allowed for either raw or finished ground beef.

Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program is leading anational campaign to stop food irradiation. More than 200 organizations, with a combinedmembership of one million, have joined the campaign. Among other activities, the campaignis urging the USDA to: 1) strengthen labeling laws for irradiated food; 2) prohibit theimportation of irradiated food; 3) keep federal meat inspectors on the job inspectingcarcasses; and 4) maintain consumer protection laws.