Organic Consumers Association

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Wall Street Repeats Discredited Call to Irradiate U.S. Food

The Wall Street Journal editorial board  noted yesterday that, "The recent E. coli outbreaks are playing as a familiar morality tale of too little regulation. The real story is a much bigger scandal: How special interests have blocked approval of a technology that could sanitize fruits and vegetables and reduce food poisoning in America.

"The technology is known as food 'irradiation,' a process that propels gamma rays into meat, poultry and produce in order to kill most insects and bacteria. It is similar to milk pasteurization, and it's a shame some food marketer didn't call it that from the beginning because its safety and health benefits are well established. The American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have all certified that a big reduction in disease could result from irradiating foods."

The Journal added that, "We asked several leading health scientists whether food irradiation could have prevented the E. coli outbreak at Taco Bell restaurants. 'Almost certainly, yes,' says Dennis Olson, who runs a research programs on food irradiation at Iowa State University. A recent study by the USDA's Agriculture Research Service confirms that 'most of the fresh-cut (minimally processed) fruits and vegetables can tolerate a radiation of 1.0 kGy, a dose that potentially inactivates 99.999% of E. coli.'

"So what's stopping irradiation? The answer is a combination of political pressure, media scare tactics and bureaucratic and industry timidity. And it starts with organic food groups and such left-wing pressure groups as Public Citizen that have engaged in a fright campaign to persuade Americans that irradiation causes cancer and disease. Something called the Stop Food Irradiation Project tells consumers to tell grocers not to carry irradiated foods."

In a news release issued last week , Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted that, "With news that the second produce-related E. coli outbreak in just over 2 months has sickened over 200 New Yorkers, today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called for Federal oversight of the nation's food supply. Two months ago, in the aftermath of the nation's largest E.coli outbreak which sickened 206 people and killed 3 people across 26 states and Canada, it took federal investigators weeks before they could locate the contaminated spinach in California's Salinas Valley. During the investigation, it became increasingly clear that federal efforts to monitor the food supply, track contaminated food, and notify the public are significantly hampered due to jurisdictional tangles, and shortages of manpower and resources at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency responsible for overseeing non-meat food products. Schumer today announced his plans to reintroduce comprehensive food safety legislation that would create a new unified Food Safety Agency that would establish inspection protocols and tracing regulations to protect farms and consumers."

The Congressional Research Service also issued a report on food safety, "Food Safety: Federal and State Response to the Spinach E. coli Outbreak ," which was released last month.


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