Experts: Public Will Accept Irradiation In Wake Of Meat Recall

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But consumers are reluctant to embrace irradiation because it is a technology they know little about and don't understand. George Pauli, director at the FDA Office of Pre-Market Approval, Division of Product Policy, says irradiating food doesn't make it radioactive, as some people believe. Pauli says the source of radiant energy is controlled and limited to cobalt 60 and cesium 137.

"It's known that they can't make the food radioactive," he says.

Different levels of irradiation are used on different foods, and those regulations may vary from country to country, Pauli says. Mason says all irradiated foods must be labeled with "radura," the international sign for irradiation, and must say that the food has been treated with radiation. So any consumer who's still hesitant to eat irradiated food can avoid it.

Linton says, "If I had a crystal ball that could predict the future, I'd say the Hudson hamburger incident may lead to consumer acceptance of irradiation in the next four or five years."

Mason agrees and adds: "Data show that consumers will accept food irradiation when they learn about it and taste irradiated food."

She also says the recent E.coli outbreak may push along the approval process for irradiation of red meat. Pauli says the petition for irradiation of all red meat was received in July 1994. Since then, the petitioner's data have been studied to determine what effects irradiation may have on hamburger and other types of red meat. Three main areas studied are: whether any chemical changes occur that can cause toxicity, how the microbial profile changes, and whether the meat's nutrient value is affected.

"The request is for all red meat to be approved at once," Pauli says, "but if we can do some ahead of others, then we may."

Pauli says it's impossible to predict if and when approval may occur. After his staff members develop a recommendation, they must provide a written explanati

Contact: Andrea McCann
Purdue University

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