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American Meat Institute Calls on FDA to Act on Three-Year Old Beef Irradiation Petition

Thursday, September 4, 1997

The American Meat Institute (AMI) today called upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speed up the review and approval of a three-year-old petition to permit beef irradiation at levels that would destroy E.coli O157:H7.

In July 1994, an irradiation equipment manufacturer petitioned FDA to permit beef irradiation, recognizing that it had already been approved for use on poultry, pork and spices. Just months after submission of the petition, USDA made a dramatic policy change, declaring the pathogen E.coli O157:H7 an adulterant when found in ground beef. The policy change, coupled with consumers’ widespread consumption of ground beef, made the technology a vital food safety tool.

“For over three years, the meat industry has been assured that the irradiation petition is moving forward within FDA,” said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle in a letter to FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Friedman. “In the wake of the recent, highly publicized outbreak of foodborne illness linked to E.coli O157:H7, we are compelled to ask: What is delaying this important petition? As FDA knows, it is a petition for use of technology with the literal potential to save lives.”

Boyle noted that 38 other countries have embraced the technology for a variety of foods and the U.S. has the toughest regulations on the doses of radiation energy allowed.

Beyond approving the petition, Boyle said the FDA has an “affirmative obligation” to explain the technology’s proven safety and effectiveness to the American public, and he said the industry shares in this obligation.

“Unless both government and industry work cooperatively to help American consumers understand the food safety benefits associated with irradiated raw products, then the commercial adoption and successful introduction of this product into the marketplace will be severely hindered.”

The American Meat Institute Foundation’s own research has shown that irradiation is extremely effective in destroying E.coli O157:H7 in ground beef patties. The Foundation’s research has also shown that the more consumers understand about irradiation, the more they will seek irradiated products.

AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute provides legislative, regulatory and public relations services, conducts scientific and economic research, offers marketing and technical assistance and sponsors education programs.

For more information contact:
Janet Riley
Vice President, Public Affairs
James Ratchford
Manager, Public Affairs

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