USA: Safety of irradiated food questioned again by two groups
A report entitled Hidden Harm has been released by the Center for Food Safety and Public Citizen and criticises the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for ignoring evidence that new chemicals created in irradiated food could be harmful.
The groups are therefore urging the FDA to halt irradiation approvals for any additional foods until new chemicals are tested for safety, and with the report they submitted a sworn affidavit of environmental toxicology professor William Au, retained by the groups to independently review the risks posed by chemicals formed by the process of irradiation.
Au, who works at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said in the affidavit: "An emphasis should be placed on the products that are unique to the irradiation process and that are potentially mutagenic […] Without conclusive evidence regarding the safety of these products, the safety of irradiated food cannot be assured."
According to a press release, the chemicals are a class of cyclobutanones first discovered in 1971. These do not occur naturally on Earth and in 1998 German scientists found that one particular type, 2-DCB, caused genetic and cellular damage in rats' cells. Further work discovered that two other types of cyclobutanones, 2-TCB and 2-TDCB, caused genetic and cellular damage in human cells. These are found however in a number of irradiated foods legalized for sale in the US by the FDA; notably beef, pork, chicken, lamb, eggs, mangoes and papayas.
The groups suspect that cyclobutanones may also form in many other irradiated foods, and the FDA has not yet determined whether they could cause cancer, birth defects or other health problems, a procedure necessary under federal regulations for food additives intended for human consumption.
Peter T. Jenkins, policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, commented: "Children are likely to be especially vulnerable to the risks of these untested chemicals in their food.
"It is beyond me why the FDA would take a chance by exposing American children in this way. The science is against it."
Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, said: "The risk that the FDA is taking with the health of the American people cannot be overstated […] If government officials knowingly allow people to eat food that contains these chemicals, they are
courting a major public health disaster."
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