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Irradiated meat to be used in schools.

Every day, 27 million children sit down in school cafeterias to eat a plateful of government-supplied food. The meals consist of typical lunch fare--burgers, green beans, pizza, apples, and lasagna, according to the Associated Press. Schools soon may add a helping of controversy: irradiated meat. Congress last year directed the Agriculture Department to accept irradiation as a method of sanitizing meat for the national school lunch program. The idea seemed reasonable to lawmakers. The department itself deemed the technology safe in 1999 after concluding that its benefits--preventing food poisoning--outweighed the risk of any potential side effects. As schools wait for the government to offer them the chance to buy the meat, fears about irradiated food have resurfaced. Parents and consumer groups worry such meat has unknown long-term health effects and want more research.

Irradiation, which involves directing gamma rays produced by the radioactive material, cobalt 60, or electricity at meat to kill harmful bacteria. Research shows that most of the radiation passes through without being absorbed. The small amount that does remain kills the bacteria.

The Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service has determined that consumers are slow to accept irradiated meat partly because they have not been informed about its benefits. The department recently awarded a $151,000 grant to Minnesota for campaign to teach parents about irradiation in three of the state's school districts. Jean Daniel, a department spokeswoman, said the success of the project will be seen by whether any of the schools buy irradiated meat. "Even if it's offered, it will be up to local schools to decide if they'll have irradiated products," she said.
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Title Annotation:United States, concerns about irradiated meat in schools
Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 28, 2003
Words:268
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