Public Interest Groups Denounce Kroger?s Decision to Sell Irradiated Meat

Feb. 19, 2002

Public Interest Groups Denounce Kroger?s Decision to Sell Irradiated Meat

Technology Hurts Consumers, Farmers and Environment, Groups Say

Peoria, Ill. ? A new “test marketing” scheme by Kroger to sell irradiated meat misleads consumers about key facts regarding the safety of the food, as well as the technology?s impact on the environment and family farmers, a coalition of state, local and national groups said today. The eleven groups denounced Kroger?s plan, which is being conducted with SureBeam, an irradiation company.

Speakers at a press conference held today at the Lakeview branch of the Peoria Public Library highlighted the numerous health, safety and regulatory questions that remain about irradiation. The groups have also sent a letter to officials at the Kroger Co. urging them to reconsider the decision to stock irradiated food.

“As a mother, farmer and consumer, I resent SureBeam?s efforts to make central Illinois swallow irradiation technology without revealing all the facts,” said Karen Hudson, president of Families Against Rural Messes (FARM). “We are here to educate the public with the rest of the story about irradiation, so consumers can vote ?no? with their food dollars. It will soon be evident that Sure Beam?s irradiated beef will not ?play in Peoria.? “

SureBeam has been aggressively advertising its meat in Peoria, as well as offering deep discounts. Previous test marketing efforts of irradiated food in several states have ended with the product being pulled from shelves due to disappointing sales. The federal government has scrutinized SureBeam?s advertising practices, which include comparing irradiation to the familiar process of pasteurization.

“Over the past few years, people across the country have rejected irradiated meat,” said Patty Lovera, an organizer with Public Citizen, a national consumer advocacy organization. “But instead of allowing Peoria?s consumers to make an informed choice, SureBeam is using consumers as guinea pigs to determine which advertising claims will convince people to accept this questionable technology.”

Irradiation can deplete vitamins and nutrients, form new chemicals that have not yet been studied for toxicity, and corrupt the flavor and odor of food. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not properly assess the safety of irradiated food before legalizing it for human consumption, research by Public Citizen has found.

“In the Chicago area, we have had to keep an eye on SureBeam because it constructed and planned to open an irradiation facility without even getting the required air pollution permits,” said Paul Fehribach, director of the Illinois Food Safety Coalition. “Folks in Peoria should know that irradiated food is not safe, and there are environmental consequences as well.”

Added Kendra Kimbirauskas, an organizer with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, “Irradiated food perpetuates a system of meat production that is incredibly damaging to Illinois? environment. By masking the food safety problems caused by intensive animal production at giant factory farms, irradiation allows these farms, and their impacts on air and water quality, to continue.”

The groups are calling for a new approach to food safety.

“The ads promoting this irradiated hamburger boast of a “revolution” in food safety,” said Pam Hansen, a spokesperson for Living Upstream. “But a true breakthrough in food safety would be a commitment to produce wholesome meat in the first place, instead of figuring out how to kill bacteria at the last possible step. Instead of a silver bullet, we need to focus on production that will benefit family farmers, the environment and consumers.”

The letter to Kroger was signed by Chicago Media Watch, FARM, GRACE Factory Farm Project, Humane PAC, Illinois Citizens for Responsible Practices, IFSC, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Living Upstream, Public Citizen, Valley Dale Alliance, and We The People.

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