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FDA Expands Irradiation Uses for Meat and Poultry

Meat and poultry producers who use ionized radiation to kill pathogens in product now have expanded options, thanks to two rules published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday.

The first rule allows for the irradiation of unrefrigerated raw meat. Previously, only refrigerated or frozen meats could be irradiated, but FDA says research on the meat treated at higher temperatures shows that this application poses no health risk.

The second rule ups the dose of absorbed ionizing radiation in poultry from 3.0 kilogray (kGy) to 4.5 kGy. While this higher dose is already allowed in meat and molluscan shellfish, the limit had remained at 3.0 kGy for poultry until now.

The two rules were issued in response to two petitions filed in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

FDA says that since that time, it has received many comments from consumer advocacy groups – including Public Citizen and the Center for Food Safety – requesting the denial of both petitions, as well as the denial of another rule permitting irradiation of molluscan shellfish.

However, these comments “were of a general nature” and “did not contain any substantive information that could be used in a safety evaluation of irradiated poultry,” said the FDA in its new poultry irradiation rule. The agency reached the same conclusion for the comments urging denial of the new meat temperature rule.

Irradiation is considered a food additive because it is a process that “can affect the characteristics of the food,” explains the agency. The treatment therefore falls under the jurisdiction of FDA, which regulates all additives, even though FSIS oversees meat safety.

There are three safety issues to be considered when looking at food irradiation, says the agency. These include:

- Potential toxicity

- Nutritional adequacy

- Effects on the microbiological profile of the food

Irradiating unrefrigerated meat was not found to increase meat’s toxicity, change the food’s nutritional properties or increase the likelihood of certain bacteria thriving on meat; therefore FDA has determined that this is a safe application for the process.

As for a higher radiation dose for poultry, since absorbed doses of 4.5 kGy have already been proven safe when applied to other flesh foods including beef, lamb and shellfish, there is no reason for this dose not to be allowed in poultry.

“The Agency determined in the 1997 rule permitting the irradiation of meat, meat byproducts and certain meat food products, that the conclusions regarding the irradiation of specific flesh foods can be used to draw conclusions about the irradiation of flesh foods as a class,” notes FDA in its poultry rule.

The two final rules went into effect November 30, 2012 – the day they were published.

FDA requires that all meat that has been irradiated must be labeled with a radura symbol on packaging and notes that the same requirement will apply to foods irradiated under these new rules.

© Food Safety News
  • doc_raymond

    The USDA sent a petition in August, 1999, asking for this. The FDA posted on the Federal Register their findings from a literature review that these changes were safe—in 2005. Seven years later, they say no new findings or literature have emerged, therefore the new rules. Seven years of doing nothing while 48 million people per year got a foodborne illness.

    • farmber

      Hmmm… the magic silver bullet hasn’t even been put into general use yet and it’s already touted as Could-Have-Saved 48 million illnesses/hospitalizations/deaths. 

      And of course the FDA found “nothing substantive” in the negative reports so there’s nothing to worry about, right?Gonna have to cut more costs to keep the prices low after adding in the radiation treatment. So now Big Meat can turn up the speed of the disassembly lines — heck why even bother to wash the carcasses? The Magic Bullet will make that manure squeaky clean. And no more need for the ammoniated cutting room scraps a la pink slime — all you need is a zap or two. At least consumers have a choice with this one besides relying on off-taste and mouthfeel. All you have to do is look for that cute, little, flowery Radura LABEL — and not buy it…

      • doc_raymond

        Farmber, who ever you are hiding behind your pseudonym, please go back and carefully reread my post. Then tell me where I even implied that radiation would save 48 million lives. Radiation will save lives by adding another tool to the process of decreasing pathogen loads in beef and poultry, most of the foodborne illnesses do not stem from meat or poultry. As always, the anti-change crowd blurs the facts for sensationalism and the attempt to discredit those with different views than theirs. BTW, this rule on meat is addressing carcass radiation of the non-penetrating kind. Those rays won’t even get to your steaks and roasts, hence no “off-taste and mouthfeel”   

        • USisLiberal

          You are a propagandist and a liar.

          You mentioned “48 million people per year got a foodborne illness”. Your attempt to link the the 48 million people with being at risk of dying was implied, and was then followed up with “Radiation will save lives by adding another tool to the process of decreasing pathogen loads in beef and poultry,…”. A very common and still clever propaganda technique.

          As for the “carcass radiation of the non-penetrating kind” statement, as far as I know every kind of irradiation penetrates to some degree. Even if only 1 inch, it will indeed “get to your steaks and roasts”. So that makes you either ill-informed, which I doubt, or a lying propagandist.

          For people who really want to know the truth, here’s a link to a very informative piece by the University of Minnesota: http://enhs.umn.edu/current/5105/regulation/irradiation.html with this killer quote:

          “Vitamins E, K, the entire B group, amino acids and essential fatty acids are all known to be adversely affected. Irradiation also accelerates the growth of a nasty mold called aspergillus. This mold produces potent natural carcinogens called aflatoxins. One study conducted by the FDA itself in 1979, demonstrated that food irradiation increases aflatoxin production by more than one-hundred-fold.”

          Sorry if this puts you out of a job, but better that than another generation humans be relegated to lab-rat status for the sake of a buck or a billion for your industry. Assuming that is, that you are just another paid industry hack.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Barbara-Griffith/1386223362 Barbara Griffith

    The best way the consumer can protect themselves  from any of these illnesses is keep a spray bottle of a bleach mixture around the kitchen sink and when you are done cutting up the meat or preparing it for cooking is spray the sink and surrounding area and then wipe with some paper towels.  Also a meat thermometer to make sure the center of the roast or baking chicken reaches 160 degrees.