Competitive Enterprise Institute | 1899 L ST NW Floor 12, Washington, DC 20036 | Phone: 202-331-1010 | Fax: 202-331-0640
Washington, DC, February 12, 1999 — The Competitive Enterprise Institute today applauded the US Department of Agriculture’s proposed rule permitting the irradiation of red meat, but called the decision long overdue. "Irradiation pasteurization promises to be among the most effective weapons in the fight against food-borne illnesses," said CEI policy analyst Gregory Conko. "It is disappointing that we’ve had to wait so long for the government to approve its use."
The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of irradiation on red meat in December 1997, but food packagers are unable to treat those products with irradiation until USDA’s rule takes effect. FDA approved irradiation of pork in 1985, and poultry in 1992. That FDA delayed its approval of red meat irradiation until 1997 is unfortunate," Conko said. "That the USDA delayed another 14 months is deplorable."
Irradiation pasteurization’s safety benefits have been intensively studied for five decades. Many prestigious scientific bodies, including the American Medical Association, the US Public Health Service, and the UN’s World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization, have endorsed its use. The technology has been deemed so safe by these organizations that it is routinely used to sterilize the food of certain hospitalized patients — such as cancer sufferers — who are especially susceptible to foodborne pathogens. It is even used to treat food eaten by astronauts in the NASA space program.
Nevertheless, many consumers are unaware of the benefits of food irradiation, and a few anti-technology activists have initiated a scare campaign in an effort to keep irradiated products off grocery store shelves. "Now that the federal government has finally allowed this technology, the next challenge is to overcome public misperceptions of irradiation," Conko said. "Consumers may decide that they don’t want irradiated products, but they should not be misled about irradiation’s safety."
CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group founded in 1984, and is dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. The subject of food irradiation is addressed in CEI’s 1996 documentary film Science Under Siege. For more information, contact Emily McGee, director of public relations, at 202-331-1010.