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Parents protest irradiated meat in school lunches.

Concerned parents have come forth to protest the Bush administration's plan to allow irradiated meat in school lunches, a Reuters report indicated recently. Irradiation, endorsed by the World Health Organization and approved by FDA for use on meat and a number of other foods, exposes food to low doses of electrons or gamma rays to destroy deadly microorganisms such as E. coil O157:H7 and Salmonella.

Under the U.S. farm subsidy law enacted in May, USDA must allow government-approved food safety technology such as irradiation to be used in commodities purchased by the federal school lunch program, which provides about 27 million schoolchildren with free or low-cost meals daily and spends billions of dollars annually in food purchases. USDA currently prohibits irradiated meat in the program.

In November, the USDA asked for public input on implementing a program for irradiated beef and so far has received more than 200 responses, mostly from opposed, unconvinced parents many of whom were urging USDA to conduct more research on the new technology before allowing it in school lunches.

Meat industry officials have dismissed the overwhelming negative responses as being organized by Washington-based Public Citizen, saying that the letters do not represent the overall public opinion of irradiated meat. In fact, a nationwide survey conducted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association last month found 48 percent of Americans likely to purchase irradiated meat, up from a 38 percent response to a similar survey in February.

Industry groups are pushing USDA to implement a pilot program to gradually introduce irradiated meat to school cafeterias. The American School Food Service Association, which supports the new technology, said it will ask the USDA to segregate irradiated meat so parents can decide whether their child should eat it.

USDA will accept comments on meat irradiation until Dec. 22. Alisa Harrison, USDA spokeswoman, said the department intends to propose changes that would allow the technology by the end of the year.
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Comment:Parents protest irradiated meat in school lunches.
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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