Freshly Irradiated

US--The Food and Drug Administration wants to irradiate the US food supply but it faces a public relations problem. In an attempt to avoid using the phrase "radiation treatment," the FDA coined the phrase "alternative nonthermal technologies." The Organic Consumers Association reports that the FDA now wants to refer to irradiated foods as "fresh." An official FDA docket announcement invites public debate as to "whether the use of the term 'fresh' is truthful and not misleading on foods processed with these alternative technologies."

The watchdog group Public Citizen has accused the FDA of using "scientific sleight-of-hand" to justify food irradiation. "Broken Record," a 20-page report from Public Citizen [215 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20004, (202) 546-4996] states that "for 17 years, the FDA has knowingly and systematically ignored its own testing protocols" in its rush to promote radioactive sterilization. The report reveals that the US Army shipped irradiated bacon to troops in Vietnam until the FDA stopped the program after learning that "lab animals fed irradiated food suffered premature death, cancer, reproductive dysfunction and other problems."

The genesis of the irradiation program is revealed in a quote from US Energy Department official F. Charles Gilbert, who told a House Armed Services Committee in March 1983: "The utilization of these radioactive materials simply reduces our waste-handling problem, in that we get some of these very hot elements--like cesium and strontium--out of the waste."

© Earth Island Journal, Spring 2001