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Rochester Groups Urge Wegmans to Remove Irradiated Meat From Shelves to Protect Consumers

June 29, 2002

Rochester Groups Urge Wegmans to Remove Irradiated Meat From Shelves to Protect Consumers

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Local public interest groups today urged the grocery chain Wegmans to remove irradiated hamburger meat from all its stores, citing the need for further studies on the harmful effects of eating irradiated food, as well as the technology?s impact on the environment and family farms.

At a rally and press conference held outside the East Avenue Wegmans and sponsored by Irradiated Food Free NY (IFFNY), a partnership of consumer, public interest and health groups in the Rochester area, speakers told shoppers about the numerous health, safety and regulatory questions that remain about irradiation. Participants objected to Wegmans? decision to carry hamburger meat irradiated by the company SureBeam under the Wegmans label in all of its 62 supermarkets located throughout New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The groups also presented a letter to Wegmans asking for the removal of irradiated beef from its stores.

“Factory farms pollute the air and water, put family farms out of business and sell us E.coli-infested meat,” said Jon Greenbaum of the Green Party of Monroe County. “Irradiation merely sweeps the problem under the rug.”

Irradiation exposes food to a dose of ionizing radiation that depletes vitamins and nutrients and causes the creation of new chemicals, many of which have not yet been studied for toxicity. 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.

“If Wegmans is truly aspiring to provide food that customers feel good about, they will remove irradiated food from their shelves until these lingering health questions have been adequately addressed,” said Monique Mikhail of Public Citizen, a national consumer advocacy organization, referring to the “food you feel good about” slogan Wegmans uses to promote their products. “We urge Wegmans to use their purchasing power to pressure suppliers into adopting safe, sustainable farming practices instead of supporting companies that use irradiation just to mask the filth of their meat.”

Previous test marketing efforts of irradiated food in several states have ended with the product being pulled from shelves due to disappointing sales. Wegmans has been aggressively advertising irradiated meat in Rochester, as well as offering large discounts for it.

“As a mother, customer and long-time consumer advocate, I resent Wegmans? repeated attempts to force consumer acceptance of irradiated food,” said Judy Braiman of the Empire State Consumer Association. “I am surprised that a family company like Wegmans, with its lengthy local history, would fall into the corporate trap and value the bottom line over our personal health and the viability of family farms.”