FDA proposes to allow irradiated foods to go label-free
|FDA proposes to allow irradiated foods to go label-free||Darrell Miller||07/30/07|
July 30, 2007 10:05 AM
Author: Darrell Miller (email@example.com)
Subject: FDA proposes to allow irradiated foods to go label-free
Since 1986, any food sold in the United States that has been irradiated must, by law, disclose that fact to the consumer, by bearing the international radura symbol as well as the words “treated by irradiation” or “Treated with radiation.” However, if the FDA has its way, all that could change. The agency put forth a proposal in April which would require that packaging only reveal a food has been irradiated if the process created a “material change” in the food, such as a change in color, texture, or taste outside of the normal variances for the food. Additionally, the FDA is proposing allowing food manufacturers to substitute the word “pasteurization” for irradiation,” which has a decidedly negative association in the American consumer’s mind.
Does irradiation = pasteurization?
The bit about swapping the term “pasteurization” for “irradiation” is not actually new. Food manufacturers have been allowed to do that since the passage of the 2002 farm bill, which broadened the legal definition of pasteurization to include “any safe process that is at least as protective as pasteurization and is reasonably certain to kill the most resistant pathogens likely to occur in food.” The California Almond Board, apparently inspired by that legislation, recently announced its decision to irradiate raw almonds and label them “pasteurized.” However, most people still understand the old definitions, whereby pasteurization means using heat to destroy pathogens and irradiation means using ionizing radiation to do so.
Consumers want to know
What is new about the current proposal is the suggestion to lift the requirement that irradiated foods be labeled as such. And that won’t go over so well among consumers. According to a 1997 poll commissioned by the American Association of Retired Persons and Center for Science in the Public Interest, 88.6 percent of Americans want irradiated foods to be labeled. Indeed, the last time the FDA made a move to allow irradiated foods to go label free, the agency received more than 5,000 comments on the issue.
What’s at stake?
According to the consumer group Center for Food Safety, irradiation can create potentially dangerous chemical byproducts, such as benzene and toluene; cause stunted growth in lab animals fed irradiated foods; and reduces foods’ nutrition value.
Noting irradiation’s unpopularity, the FDA stated that if foods treated with irradiation were not required to be labeled, more manufacturers would probably opt to use it. The agency is particularly concerned given the E.coli outbreak last November in fresh spinach.
Fortunately, even if the proposal becomes law, there will still be one surefire way to avoid irradiated foods: buying Organic.
References used in this article.
Civic leaders and public citizen tell wal-mart “Nebraskans won’t buy meat treated with irradiation” ! public citizen. May 27, 2007. //www.tradewatch.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=201
FDA may loosen labeling rules for irradiated foods. Center for infectious disease research & policy (CIDRAP). //www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/fs/irradiation/news/apr1007irradiation.html
FDA proposes softening irradiated food labels. April 4, 2004. USA today. //www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-04-05-food-irradiation_N.htm
Food irradiation. The center for food safety. //www.centerforfoodsafety.org/food_irrad.cfm