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FDA Approves Use of Irradiation on Iceberg Lettuce and Spinach

Friday, August 22, 2008

(American Meat Institute)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is amending the food additive regulations to provide for the safe use of ionizing radiation for control of food-borne pathogens, and extension of shelf-life, in fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach at a dose up to 4.0 kiloGray (kGy).  This action is in partial response to a petition filed by The National Food Processors Association on behalf of The Food Irradiation Coalition.

Irradiation is a safe and simple process that uses energy to destroy harmful bacteria on food products. This energy can be generated from cobalt-60 or cesium-137 (referred to as gamma irradiation), x-ray machines or electron accelerators (most often called electron-beam technology). The energy passes through the product, in the same way that microwaves pass through foods in a microwave oven. The energy does not remain in the product or leave any residue, nor does it cook the product and when applied properly does not alter its taste in any demonstrable way.

Food Irradiation has been used on certain spices for years, and has been approved as a means of pest control on certain fruits and vegetables for many years. In February 2000, USDA announced a final rule allowing the use of food irradiation on raw, single ingredient meat and poultry products.   Today, irradiated products, including certain raw meat products, are offered by retail chains in major markets. Consumers are able to identify irradiated products by looking at the label, which bears prominently a symbol called the radura and the words “treated with irradiation” or “treated by irradiation.”

 The American Meat Institute is a member of the Food Irradiation Coalition, the group that filed the original petition seeking approval for the use of irradiation on  all  Ready-to-Eat  (RTE) foods, including fully cooked, RTE meat  and poultry products.   AMIF President Randy Huffman, Ph.D., noted, “The meat industry is gratified that FDA is making progress on the petition by announcing this approval of irradiation for this class of RTE foods -- spinach and iceberg lettuce. Food irradiation has been intensely studied and scrutinized for decades and the safety of the process, when used appropriately, is without question.  This decision by FDA provides the food industry with another potential tool for enhancing safety of certain food products.  We encourage FDA to move forward now with evaluation of the other RTEs covered by the petition, including RTE meat and poultry products.”

 To view a copy of the agency’s final ruling, click here: http://www.meatinstitute.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/41382

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