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Senate Votes Against Forcefeeding Irradiated Meat to Schoolchildren

JUNE 24, 2004
5:39 PM

CONTACT: Public Citizen
Newsroom: 202-588-7742

Public Citizen Applauds Congress for Restricting School Lunch Use of
Irradiated Food

WASHINGTON - June 24 - Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Director of Public
Citizen's Food Program:

It is encouraging to see that Congress is protecting the most vulnerable
population within its constituency. Following Wednesday's U.S. Senate vote,
the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Child Nutrition Act,
which states that irradiated food may be made available to school children
only at the request of state and local school systems and that its use in
school lunches cannot be mandated by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA);
that irradiated food cannot be subsidized by the federal government; and
that state and school food authorities are to be provided with factual
information about irradiation, including notice that irradiation is not a
substitute for safe food handling. The bill also requires irradiated foods
that are distributed to federal meal programs for children to be labeled as

The USDA's May 2003 decision to approve irradiated meat for the national
school lunch program was controversial because the federal agency chose
industry over parental concerns. Of the more than 5,000 comments the
government received, 93 percent were in opposition to the proposal to
include irradiated meat in children's lunches. In response, 10 school
districts across the country, including in Los Angeles, San Francisco and
Washington, D.C., banned irradiated meat from school lunches.

Given that the National School Lunch Program feeds 27 million children, it
is vital that meals served at school are healthy, nutritious and safe.
Research shows that a class of chemicals created during irradiation may be
harmful. Further, there is a lack of research on the potential health
effects of feeding irradiated foods to children, who are more susceptible
than adults to adverse effects of consuming toxic substances. School
children shouldn't be guinea pigs for a questionable technology, the
long-term effects of which are unknown.