559 views 3 commentsupdate:Apr 12, 2007

FDA's proposal to hide irradiation

Jaime Luján Zilbermann
This last week (April 4), the Food and Drug Administration of the US government proposed to revise its labelling regulations for irradiated food. This proposal is no simple matter; in fact, it would be a major change in policy regarding irradiated food. (Comment 1)

This last week (April 4), the Food and Drug Administration of the US government proposed to revise its labelling regulations for irradiated food. This proposal is no simple matter; in fact, it would be a major change in policy regarding irradiated food.
No more labels
Mainly, it intends to rid food companies of the obligation to label any food that has been irradiated unless that food suffered a material change due to irradiation. The FDA defines material change as "a change in the organoleptic, nutritional, or functional properties of a food" - as long as consumers aren't able to tell the difference when buying the product.
This is another perfect example of "hiding the truth", exactly what the poultry industry should be running away from.
The consumers view of animal husbandry
Recent years have seen a backlash from consumers on many animal husbandry practices that have become standard, but that most people were unaware of.
Basically, as poultry production has moved into intensive mode, the average consumer still holds the image of the family farm of old, where chickens lived in coops and the farmer threw corn on the ground every morning for his poultry to eat.
A case in point is the recent increase in the sale of organic foods; furthermore, the processed foods market is already reacting by offering "natural" foods, limiting the types of ingredients on a product to those found in most family kitchens (and not strange-sounding stuff like "preservatives").
The effect of this proposal unknow
Because it is still a proposal, it's not entirely clear how it might affect the poultry industry. The proposal does make it clear that each product type would have to be approved on a case-by-case basis. Fresh poultry has the advantage that it is already approved for irradiation.
However, practical experience shows that irradiation does produce certain colour changes in poultry meat, making it attain a certain reddish-pinkish tinge that remains throughout the cooking process. It's possible that these changes would fall within the organoleptic properties considered by the proposal, but it's too early to tell.
My point, however, is that by hiding the fact that the chicken people consume is irradiated, no matter how much microbially safer that might make it, the poultry industry could be setting itself up for a huge backlash once consumers became aware of it. Therefore, beware of this proposal; you're only playing with fire.

3 comments

  • no-profile-image

    David Gilboa

    This would be a blessing as most organic food is expensive but is sprayed with toxic materials whereas irradiated food is pest free and does not harm the human body.

  • no-profile-image

    Jaime Luján Zilbermann

    I'm not questioning the merits of irradiation, but the principle of "hiding" part of the process in order for consumers to purchase the product.

  • no-profile-image

    Amnon Michael

    Do you know what foods are already marketed that are being irradiated?

Or register to be able to comment.