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FDA Gives Green Light to
Deceptive Labels on Irradiated Food

Irradiated food gets image boost
Wednesday, October 9, 2002 Posted: 3:35 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. food companies can seek federal approval to
avoid using the word "irradiation" on labels of foods treated with the
disease-killing process, and instead use language such as "cold
pasteurization," the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

Irradiation, which has been endorsed by the World Health Organization,
exposes food to low doses of electrons or gamma rays to destroy deadly
microorganisms such as E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella. It has been approved
by U.S. regulators for use with raw chicken and beef as well as spices and
dried seasonings.

The FDA issued guidelines explaining how companies can petition the agency
to use more neutral language on the label of food treated with irradiation.

American foodmakers have been slow to adopt the treatment for raw meat and
poultry because of the cost of the equipment and worries about consumer
acceptance.

Some green groups and environmentalists fear using high-energy radiation in
food products could have harmful side effects for consumers.

Currently, foods treated with the technology must carry labels saying either
"treated with irradiation" or "treated by radiation." They must also bear a
special symbol, known as the radura, which consists of green petals in a
broken circle.

Some food makers that want to use irradiation say consumers interpret the
radura symbol and the word "irradiation" as a food safety warning. Critics
say the industry is trying to use euphemisms to hide that their products
were irradiated.

The six-year U.S. farm law, implemented in May, required the FDA to consider
easing its labeling requirements.

In its industry guidelines, the FDA said any company can apply to revise its
irradiation labels as long as the new label is not false or misleading.

In its petition, a food company must submit consumer research that shows a
comprehension of the proposed label.

The FDA said it will either accept or deny the application within six
months.

An FDA spokeswoman said the agency was expected to soon publish proposed
changes to the current labeling requirements.


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