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[cdn-nucl-l] U.S. meat companies slow to use irradiation - USDA
Posted in Reuters.com on May 6, 2003 and at:
CORRECTED - U.S. meat companies slow to use irradiation - USDA
Tue May 6, 2003 01:45 PM ET
In May 5 CHICAGO story headlined "U.S. meat companies slow to use
irradiation," in the 12th paragraph please read ... Congress has directed
USDA to allow the use of irradiated meat in the school lunch program ...
instead of ... USDA recently approved use of irradiated meat in the school
lunch program ... (Corrects to make clear that Congress, not USDA, has
approved use of irradiated meat in schools.)
A corrected version follows.
CHICAGO, May 5 (Reuters) - Irradiation is the single most effective tool in
killing food-borne pathogens, but the cost of installing irradiation
equipment at meat plants has so far prevented its widespread use, said Elsa
Murano, the government's food safety leader.
"I think it is more cost-effective for there to be a central irradiation
location that they (meat plants) can send the product to," said Murano, the
U.S. Agriculture Department's undersecretary for food safety.
"Cost-effectiveness is very important to them right now," said Murano on the
sidelines of the First World Congress on Food Irradiation here. Murano
earlier had addressed a session of the congress.
Pathogens are types of bacteria or fungus that cause illness, and several
prominent recalls of tainted meat products have increased public awareness
of the need for safer food.
Irradiated meat is available in stores, but sales have been slow. Meat
industry sources estimate less than 5 percent of meat is irradiated.
"It has just recently come on line, " said Janet Riley, spokeswoman for the
American Meat Institute. "There really hasn't been any major consumer
education for it."
As a result, major meat companies have preferred to irradiate the small
quantities of meat off site rather than spending the money to install bulk
treatment facilities at their plants.
The Food and Drug Administration and USDA have approved irradiation for
ground beef, chicken, and pork, as well as fruits and vegetables, herbs,
spices and wheat flour.
Irradiation involves treating foods with gamma rays, electrons, or X-rays to
kill harmful germs.
"Irradiation is so effective as a single step that to accomplish the same
thing you would have to have several technologies that we have now to reduce
pathogens," Murano said.
While effective at killing contaminants, Murano said irradiation is not a
substitute for good sanitation and proper cooking and handling.
Irradiation is endorsed by the World Health Organization, and Congress has
directed USDA to allow the use of irradiated meat in the school lunch
Recalls of meat because of E. coli, listeria, or salmonella contamination
have made headlines and produced calls from consumer groups for better
processing methods to kill the germs. Irradiation has been touted as a key
weapon to kill contaminants.
In October 2002, Pilgrim's Pride Corp. CHX.N recalled 27.4 million pounds
(12.43 million kg) of poultry products on suspicions it was tainted with
listeria. In July of that year, the Greeley, Colorado, beef plant, owned at
the time by ConAgra Foods Inc. CAG.N , recalled 19 million pounds (8.62
million kg) of beef on suspected E. coli contamination after 28 people fell