Alderspring beef is not irradiated.
We believe the evidence is fairly strong that irradiation is harmful, but given the risk of food poisoning (see ECOLI) from beef, irradiation may be the lesser of two evils. With grass grown beef and small-scale inspected processing, the risk of E. coli is dramatically lower, eliminating the justification for irradiation.
I (Caryl) found this article particularly troubling as a mother. With tax dollars, this effort studies how to blunt opposition to the use of irradiated meat in school lunch programs through the development of “educational” programs. Guess you have to start making sack lunches if you don’t want your child to eat the stuff…
Minnesota Records Another Irradiation First
excerpted from Beef Cow Calf Weekly
Minnesota, the birthplace of today’s growing availability of
irradiated ground beef, has done it again. A USDA-funded pilot project announced yesterday in Minneapolis before a gathering of school food service professionals aims to begin to lay the groundwork for the introduction of irradiated ground beef in public schools through the federal school lunch program.
The Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning (CFL) says school districts in Spring Lake Park, Sauk Rapids and Willmar will be participating in the education pilot project on school food safety and irradiation. The project aims at providing the best and latest, science-based information on irradiation and school food safety to parents, students, educators, administrators, school boards and community members within those three districts. The intent is to provide them with the knowledge to make the best decisions about their school food safety methods and procedures…
…The first phase, already underway, will assess the knowledge level and concerns regarding school food safety and the use of irradiated foods in the three school districts.
That information will be used to develop an education component to address those needs and concerns. This second phase will run from March to April.
Phase three, scheduled for May, will involve evaluating the effectiveness of the education materials and its delivery methods. From that, modifications will be made to the education materials before they are implemented statewide. Completion of the three-phase project is expected during the summer.
Minnesota is on the forefront of irradiated ground beef adoption. A partnership between the MBC, state public health agencies and a Minnesota ground beef processor made the retail availability of ground beef a reality in May 2000. Since then its availability has spread nationwide and irradiated ground beef is today being served in at least 2,000 restaurants and more than 4,000 retail grocery supermarkets in the U.S.
Ban on Irradiated Meat Lifted in School Lunch Program
The Washington Post – May 30, 2003 (Added 10/2003)
By Michael A. Fletcher (entire article here)
The Department of Agriculture yesterday lifted its prohibition on irradiated ground beef in the national school lunch program, giving local school districts the option of ordering meat decontaminated with gamma rays, X-rays or electrons as early as next January.
The department issued regulations allowing the purchase of irradiated ground beef over the objections of several consumer groups, which have voiced lingering concerns about the technology’s safety for the 27 million students in the nation’s school lunch program.
“While there is not a lot of evidence that irradiation harms anybody, neither has there been any group of people who has consumed irradiated food over a long period of time,” said Arthur S. Jaeger, associate director of the Consumer Federation of America. “We have said all along that we don’t think school kids are the place to start serving irradiated ground beef.”
Some schools, day-care centers to serve irradiated beef
by Brendan O’Neill on 9/2/04 for Meatingplace.com
Schools and day-care centers in Minnesota, Nebraska and Texas will be serving irradiated ground beef to children this year, despite the protests of some local officials and parents.
This is the first year the U.S. Department of Agriculture has offered irradiated beef in national school lunch and other federal food programs, but it has been on grocery store shelves since 2000. In Nebraska, 50 schools and 15 day-care centers have ordered the meat, which is exposed to gamma rays or electricity to kill harmful bacteria.
Critics argue that eating irradiated food could cause health problems like cancer.
Laura Kresbach, a mother and a regional representative for the Sierra Club in Lincoln, Neb., said she would not be comfortable with her children eating irradiated beef.
“The jury’s still out on this irradiation thing,” she said. “Why should we be playing guinea pig with our kids?”
Nebraska orders about 1 million pounds of ground beef each year for schools and day-care centers. This year 2 percent of that is irradiated, which costs about 15 cents more per pound than regular ground beef.
State and federal officials are urging schools and day-care centers to inform parents if they are serving irradiated beef.
The Truth about Irradiated Meat
from Consumer Reports
In the aftermath of record meat recalls, certain supermarkets and restaurants are touting something new: irradiated chicken and ground beef.
Irradiation “eliminates any bacteria that might exist in food,” according to a Food Emporium supermarket flyer. “You can’t taste the difference,” claims a pamphlet from SureBeam, a leading food irradiator. “Enjoy with confidence!” says a poster advertising irradiated double cheeseburgers at a Minneapolis Dairy Queen. Full-page newspaper ads from Wegmans supermarkets tell customers that they can cook a juicy irradiated burger “the way they like it” and “without worrying about safety.”
Consumer Reports put claims like those to the test. Our research, taste tests, and microbial analysis of irradiated and nonirradiated chicken and ground beef–the largest analysis of its kind on meat sold at retail–counter many of the assertions.
Additional information from Organic Consumers Association:
Which companies are irradiating in the US: now and in the near future?
Companies that produce over 75% of the U.S.’s 9 billion pounds/year of ground beef and approximately 50% of the nearly 35 billion pounds/year of poultry have signed agreements to use irradiation technology. The only way to know how much of their products are irradiated now is to ask the company. Most irradiated product–primarily hamburger and chicken–is going to restaurants and other food service and is not labeled to the consumer.
Currently using irradiation for meat/poultry: Huisken’s of Minnesota (ground beef, 22 states); Schwan’s home delivery (ground beef); Omaha Steaks; Tyson, IBP (now owned by Tyson) (ground beef), Excel (ground beef – the U.S. Dept. of Defense plans to buy irradiated beef from Excel), Emmpak (ground beef), Colorado Boxed Beef (poultry); WW Johnson Meat Company (ground beef for the food service industry); Kenosha Beef International (ground beef; it supplies Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Target, A&W Restaurants, Dairy Queen, Hardee’s, and Hot’N Now Hamburgers); Nation’s Pride (chicken to restaurants and food service); Rochester Meat (ground beef products, portion cut steaks and pork, for the foodservice industry).
How are humans affected by eating irradiated food?
We don’t know. There have been no long-term human studies, and almost no studies on children. The FDA based its approval of irradiation to treat meat products on only 7 animal studies of 441 studies submitted, and these 7 either showed health effects or had obvious scientific flaws like using a dose of radiation much lower than the FDA’s permitted ;maximum. In fact, animal studies have shown many health effects, such as tumors, kidney failure, death of offspring and miscarriages. Irradiation for fruits and vegetables was based on a theoretical calculation of the danger of the new chemicals that were created, not on animal studies.
We do know that irradiation can damage vitamins A, C, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B6 and folic acid, up to 80%, depending on the vitamin and how long the foods are stored. People who rely on fresh foods for their vitamins may suffer vitamin deficiencies. It is ironic that the vitamins that are destroyed are those needed to fight the extra free radicals created by irradiation! People who eat irradiated foods will be eating them in large quantities for a long period of time—possibly for life—especially if the FDA stops requiring labels. Scientists have no idea what result this will have on human health.
Some foods may be irradiated twice, for example fresh apricots in a packaged fruit salad that is also irradiated. No studies exist on the effects on these “double-dose” foods on health.
The existing science on the safety of food irradiation is totally inadequate for the FDA to unleash this technology on the public. The FDA should require labels on the food so that people can avoid irradiated foods, and so that public health officials can determine if people who ate these foods and people who avoided them have different health problems. Without labels, epidemiologists will never be able to determine the health effects of irradiated foods in the diet.
From the Berkley Wellness Letter, University of California; Volume 8 issue 8
Is irradiated food safe to eat?
The answer to this question is unknown. Of course, irradiation does not make food radioactive, any more than dental X-rays make your jaw radioactive. Irradiation is classified by the government as a food additive-but just what it adds to foods and what effects these compounds have on humans is not completely understood. Radiation damages the basic molecular structure of the food, creating new substances, known as free radicals, that can further threaten the stability of molecules. The higher the dose of radiation, the more free radicals and new compounds. But studies so far have not adequately tested the toxicity of these compounds. It’s illegal to test for toxicity on humans until experiments with animals seem to indicate that such tests would be safe. In testing food additives, laboratory animals are fed abnormally high levels (compared to what humans might actually eat) of potential toxins-and then theoretical models have to be made to apply the results to humans. Such studies have not been done for irradiation. Instead, irradiated food has been fed to animals, but this may not be the same as testing with large doses of a known additive.
FDA Will Consider Alternatives To “Irradiated”
Beef Cow/Calf Weekly; October 11 2002 Newsletter
In a move that could hasten consumer acceptance of irradiated foods, FDA will entertain petitions by food companies to use alternatives to the word “irradiation” on packages of food treated with the bacteria-killing technology. Currently, irradiated foods must bear the words “treated with irradiation” or “treated by radiation.” The packaging must also include the radura symbol.
Under the 2002 farm bill, which urged relaxation of the labeling rules, companies will now be able to seek approval for the use of such words as “cold pasteurization,” FDA says. New guidelines released this week by FDA require petitioning firms to provide consumer research that shows shoppers will understand the proposed label. The FDA will then either accept or deny the application within six months.
And The (Irradiated) Beef Goes On
Beef cow/calf weekly, 13 December 2002
Ron Eustice of the Minnesota Beef Council, a national standard bearer for the widespread adoption of irradiated ground beef, provides this update of retailers and restaurants that have added irradiated ground beef to their offerings since November 6.
Fresh Brands, Inc., a supermarket retailer and grocery wholesaler based in Wisconsin. Offered through corporate-owned retail, franchised and independent supermarkets. Stores are located throughout Wisconsin and northern Illinois under the Piggly Wiggly and Dick’s Supermarkets brands. The company controls nearly $1 billion in retail grocery sales.
Embers America Inc., a St. Paul, MN-based chain of full-service, family-style restaurants, has introduced a line of irradiated hamburgers. The famous Ember Burger is now irradiated. The family-owned company, has 65 restaurants, and branches throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. It’s the first full-service restaurant chain to offer irradiated meat.
Lunds/Byerly’s, based in Edina, MN, introduced Fairfield Farms brand fresh irradiated ground chuck at all locations. Byerly’s operates 11 stores in Minneapolis-St. Paul and one in St. Cloud. Lunds has eight stores in the Twin Cities area.
Jewel-Osco, a 191-store unit of Boise, ID-based Albertson’s Inc., is selling irradiated ground beef at Chicago stores and other locations.
Hannaford and Shop’n Save Supermarkets based in Scarborough, ME, offers case-ready irradiated fresh ground beef in 117 stores in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Massachusetts.
Pick ‘n Save, the retail division of Roundy’s Inc., based in Pewaukee, WI, offers 1-lb. packs of irradiated fresh ground beef. Nine other Pick ‘n Save stores are also participating in the test sale.
Irradiated ground beef has also hit food service in a big way since its introduction in May 2000. Here’s a sampling of which firms are providing it:
W.W. Johnson, a Minneapolis-based private label foodservice company. The firm private labels fresh ground beef for national and regional foodservice distributors and chains including Sysco, US Foodservice, Rhinehart, Upper Lakes Foods and Fraboni’s. Sales of irradiated product through W.W. Johnson are coast to coast and expanding steadily. About 10% of W.W. Johnson’s production is irradiated.
Sysco: Currently 28 Sysco Foodservice Distribution Centers are offering irradiated products to various foodservice establishments. Some of the areas with irradiated ground beef are Portland, ME; Kent, WA; Billings, MT; Milwaukee, WI, Cleveland and Cincinnati, OH.
Schwan’s, based in Marshall, MN, began selling irradiated frozen patties nationwide through home delivery in late May 2000. All fresh/frozen ground beef at Schwan’s is irradiated.
Nash Finch Company, based in Minneapolis, MN, began marketing Huisken BeSure irradiated beef patties in summer 2000. Nash Finch is one of the leading food retail and distribution companies in the U.S., and owns and operates a base of 112 retail stores, principally supermarkets under the AVANZA, Buy-n-Save, Econofoods and Sun Mart trade names. In addition to its retail operations, Nash Finch Company’s food distribution business serves independent retailers and military commissaries in 28 states, theDistrict of Columbia and Europe.
Omaha Steaks has marketed irradiated frozen patties since the summer of 2000. All ground beef from Omaha Steaks is irradiated.
from Nuclear Lunch: The Dangers and Unknowns of Food Irradiation. By by Susan Meeker-Lowery and Jennifer Ferrara
Food is irradiated using radioactive gamma sources, usually cobalt 60 or cesium 137, or high energy electron beams. The gamma rays break up the molecular structure of the food, forming positively and negatively charged particles called free radicals. The free radicals react with the food to create new chemical substances called “radiolytic products.” Those unique to the irradiation process are known as “unique radiolytic products” (URPs).
Some radiolytic products, such as formaldehyde, benzene, formic acid, and quinones are harmful to human health. Benzene, for example, is a known carcinogen.
In one experiment, seven times more benzene was found in cooked, irradiated beef than in cooked, non-irradiated beef. Some URPs are completely new chemicals that have not even been identified, let alone tested for toxicity.
In addition, irradiation destroys essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, thiamine, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, C, E, and K; amino acid and essential polyunsaturated fatty acid content may also be affected. A 20 to 80 percent loss of any of these is not uncommon.
Potential Health Hazards of Food Irradiation: Verbatim Excerpts from Expert Testimony, U.S. Congressional Hearings Into Food Irradiation
WHAT’S WRONG WITH FOOD IRRADIATION
With Sources for Each Statement
January 2001 The Organic Consumers Association
Two opposing views from the New England Journal of Medicine
Irradiation of food
July 22, 2004
New England Journal of Medicine: Vol. 351, No. 4
Michael McCally, M.D., Ph.D., of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, and Martin Donohoe, M.D., Portland State University, Portland, OR, write in this letter that both the Sounding Board article by Osterholm and Norgan and the Perspective article by Thayer (April 29 issue)1,2 call for greatly expanded use of irradiation to prevent foodborne illness. The authors, two of whom receive funding from the food-irradiation industry, mention but dismiss strong arguments against the use of this technology.
The authors say in the letter that many studies have shown that irradiated foods, which contain novel carcinogens called 2-alkylcyclobutanones (2-ACBs), have a worse taste and have potential adverse health consequences.3 The European Union recently voted to deny a permit for the expanded use of food irradiation, pending further study of 2-ACBs.
A majority of Americans oppose food irradiation, which adds considerably to the cost of food. Some school districts have adopted policies prohibiting irradiated food.4 Many costly, new nuclear processing facilities containing highly radioactive sources would be required, raising issues of worker safety, transportation safety, the disposal of radioactive waste, and possible targets for terrorism. No research shows the effectiveness of food irradiation. Does food irradiation reduce the incidence of foodborne illness in the community and improve the outcomes of such illness? Given safer, cheaper, and more effective alternatives to ensure food safety,5 large-scale food irradiation should not proceed without further study, including a demonstration of its effectiveness.
- Osterholm MT, Norgan AP. The role of irradiation in food safety. N Engl J Med 2004;350:1898-1901.[Full Text]
- Thayer DW. Irradiation of food — helping to ensure food safety. N Engl J Med 2004;350:1811-1812.[Full Text]
- Raul F, Gosse F, Dilincee H, et al. Food-borne radiolytic compounds (2-alkylcyclobutanones) may promote experimental colon carcinogenesis. Nutr Cancer 2002;44:189-191.[CrossRef][Medline]
- Burros M. Irradiated beef: a question in lunchrooms. New York Times. January 29, 2003.
- Nestle M. Safe food: bacteria, biotechnology, and bioterrorism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
Dr. Osterholm and Mr. Norgan of the University of Minnesota reply that the comments of McCally and Donohoe reflect what they consider to be the emotional effort of a few to provide misinformation against the use of irradiation that would dramatically improve the safety of segments of our food supply. Their concerns are factually incorrect, extraneous to a discussion of the safety of irradiation, or directly refuted by scientific data cited in the article.
Osterholm and Norgan write that every major scientific and medical organization in the world that has evaluated food-irradiation technology has endorsed its safety. The legislation that authorizes the approval process for food irradiation precludes approval on the basis of a risk–benefit analysis (i.e., the benefit of food irradiation in preventing morbidity and mortality that are related to foodborne diseases vs. the risk of an adverse health consequence from consuming irradiated food). Rather, to be approved, food irradiation must meet the more stringent “no detectable adverse health consequence” standard. The fact that applications for the irradiation of a variety of foods have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration indicates the current medical and scientific consensus on the issue.
Dr. Thayer of Lower Gwynedd, PA replies that McCally and Donohoe ignore the results of a multigeneration, multispecies feeding study in which 135,406 kg of chicken sterilized by irradiation provided 35 percent of the diet for test animals: no treatment-related abnormalities or changes in the test animals were detected.1 The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food concluded in July 2002 that genotoxicity of 2-ACBs had not been demonstrated. The commission’s conclusion is supported by animal-feeding studies,1 lack of mutagenicity of 2-dodecylcyclobutanone,2,3 and routine use of irradiated feeds to ensure that the test animals remain disease-free during toxicology studies. Evaluation of many generations of test animals that have consumed diets consisting of irradiated foods would be expected to reveal any long-term effects, yet the animals breed normally and show no signs of genetic, teratogenic, or other abnormalities.4 The effectiveness of irradiation in killing foodborne pathogens such as salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Staphylococcus aureus in meat and poultry is well documented,5 and there have been no recalls of irradiated hamburger or poultry due to contamination. Food irradiation neither uses nor generates nuclear waste.
- Thayer DW, Christopher JP, Campbell LA, et al. Toxicology studies of irradiation-sterilized chicken. J Food Prot 1987;50:287-288.
- Sommers CH. 2-Dodecylcyclobutanone does not induce mutations in the Escherichia coli tryptophan reverse mutation assay. J Agric Food Chem 2003;51:6367-6370.[CrossRef][ISI][Medline]
- Sommers CH, Schiestl RH. 2-Dodecylcyclobutanone does not induce mutations in the salmonella mutagenicity test or intrachromosomal recombination in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. J Food Prot 2004;67:1293-1298.[ISI][Medline]
- Swallow AJ. Wholesomeness and safety of irradiated foods. In: Friedman M, ed. Nutritional and toxicological consequences of food processing. New York: Plenum Press, 1991.
- Thayer DW, Boyd G, Fox JB Jr, et al. Variations in radiation sensitivity of foodborne pathogens associated with the suspending meat. J Food Sci 1995;60:63-67.[ISI]