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Food Groups Oppose Irradiation Labeling and Urge FDA to Do the Same in Review of Proposal.

FDA currently is reviewing proposed changes to its requirement that irradiated foods be labeled with the radura logo and the words "treated with irradiation" or "treated by irradiation." For two food industry groups, at issue is the question whether to label foods treated by irradiation and if so, what terminology to use. If irradiated foods are required to have special labels, consumers should at least be informed that the product has been irradiated for their safety, the Grocery Manufacturers of America said (GMA) last week in comments made to FDA.

"GMA opposes the continued use of irradiation labeling of any kind.... If it is to be retained, GMA proposes that FDA adopt a three-year sunset provision for any amended labeling, coupled with intensified consumer education by the food industry and FDA," the food group said. In addition, GMA strongly recommends that any amended labeling apply only to retail packaged products that have been irradiated, not to foods containing irradiated ingredients. If FDA does continue to require irradiation labeling, GMA strongly advocates the use of a label that states: "cold pasteurized (irradiated) to make food safer from harmful bacteria."

GMA said that since the current irradiation labels look like warnings, they "discourage consumers from purchasing irradiated foods." FDA's current labeling for irradiated foods discourages the use of a technology that could deliver safer and better quality food to consumers, it said.

Echoing similar sentiments was the National Food Processors Association (NFPA). The group urged FDA to "assert its role as the 'food safety agency' and provide regulations to encourage rather than discourage the use of a technology that will enhance the safety of the food supply."

Comments made by the two groups addressed questions relative to the issue of irradiation labeling, which were posed by FDA in an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last February. This time last year NFPA made a citizen petition to FDA which asserted that the agency's current requirements for irradiated foods are neither scientifically nor legally justified, and requested that FDA remove the labeling requirements for irradiated foods.

NFPA "believes that the current radiation disclosure, required on irradiated foods, misleads consumers by suggesting a government-directed caution or warning statement," it said. NFPA pointed to research which indicates that consumers are uneasy about statements on radiation and irradiation, and there can be little doubt that this perception has discouraged the industry from using irradiation on any food which would be required to bear the label statement, it said. "Thus, FDA's required radiation statement discourages the use of a process that can mitigate, if not eliminate, very real safety hazards."

Consumer and anti-nuclear groups have earlier expressed worries that irradiation will be used as an excuse for sloppy handling and processing by food manufacturers.
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Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 24, 1999
Words:456
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