Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Meat Irradiation Question: If It Makes Us Safer, Why Not Approve It?

American meat processors are making a lot of noise right now about the USDA's failure to approve irradiation technology as a meat processing aid. Their argument is basically that if this technology can keep our meet supply safer, it is outrageous that the USDA would fail to approve it. Is that a fair complaint?

Sure it is.  The problem is that meat processors aren't simply asking for permission to use irradiation. They are asking for permission to use it without any labeling requirement. Irradiation is a technology that has - for valid reasons or not - raised a lot of questions and concerns for the American public. As such, it seems reasonable to me (in the interest of fully informing consumers) that we label irradiated meat as such. If meat processors would concede on this, irradiation would probably be approved without delay.

I have no problem with a technology that can keep us safer. I have a problem with an industry that insists on keeping consumers in the dark about how our food is processed. If irradiation really makes us safer without compromising quality, meat labeled as "irradiated" will command a premium price, and meat processors should stop making such a fuss. Until  then, I find their outrage disingenuous.

Food Quality News on the meat irradiation "impasse," here.

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