Charges by an activist group that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not used adequate science in approving the use of food irradiation on a variety of foods, "are just plain wrong," according to Dr. Rhona Applebaum, Executive Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs for the National Food Processors Association (NFPA). Dr. Applebaum made her remarks in comments on a report released today by Public Citizen, an activist group that has long opposed the use of food irradiation.

"It is regrettable that Public Citizen seeks to undermine confidence in FDA, and in the integrity of its approval processes for food safety technologies," Dr. Applebaum said. "The process by which FDA determines the safety of irradiation for use of various foods is both science-based and rigorous."

Dr. Applebaum noted that "In late August, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a landmark report on food irradiation, titled 'Food Irradiation: Available Research Indicates That Benefits Outweigh Risks.' The report stated that 'Scientific studies conducted by public and private researchers worldwide over the past 50 years support the benefits of food irradiation while indicating minimal potential risks.' Among groups cited by the GAO report supporting the safety of food irradiation are the American Dietetic Association; the American Medical Association; the National Institute of Health's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the World Health Organization; the Scientific Committee of the European Union; and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. Clearly, Public Citizen's views are at odds with the scientific community, both here in the U.S. and around the world."

"Public Citizen supposedly is in the business of promoting food safety," Dr. Applebaum said. "While irradiation is not a cure-all, it is a safe and effective technology that can offer strong benefits to consumers in helping protect the safety of the food supply. Irradiation is particularly important because it can offer greater food safety protections for the most vulnerable populations - children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. For Public Citizen to fight the use this valuable food safety technology is irresponsible and incomprehensible."

Dr. Applebaum noted that "This report does make one thing very clear: There is still a strong need for the food industry, government, and responsible health organizations to provide information to the public on food irradiation. This is a safe technology that provides strong benefits to consumers. NFPA will work closely with FDA and other government agencies on educational efforts to ensure that consumers get the information they need to better understand the process and benefits of food irradiation."

NFPA is the voice of the $460 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs. For more information or to arrange an interview with an NFPA spokesperson on this subject, contact Timothy Willard, NFPA's Vice President of Communications, at (202) 637-8060 or visit NFPA's Website at

Food irradiation is a safe, simple and relatively inexpensive process to make foods safer. It has been available since the 1950s but has been sorely underutilized to the detriment of consumers.

Food irradiation is an effective food safety process for destroying harmful pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes in many foods, as well as lengthening their shelf life. Scientific evidence strongly supports the safety of food irradiation, as well as the many benefits this technology offers for consumers and food companies alike.

Authoritative scientific bodies ranging from the World Health Organization to the American Medical Association, all agree with FDA that food irradiation presents no health risk. More than 35 countries have approved irradiation as a safe food treatment technology.

The process by which USDA and FDA determine the safety of irradiation for use on various foods is rigorous to the point of being arduous. For example, it took these agencies nearly seven years to complete their review and approve the use of irradiation on red meat. Given the importance of irradiation as a food safety tool, this rulemaking took far too long; in fact, the final rule was long overdue.

NFPA will continue to work with government to provide educational information to consumers on food irradiation. Recently, NFPA and other food industry and health organizations contributed to the content and printing of an FDA brochure titled 'Food Irradiation: A Safe Measure.' It is vital that government and industry work closely on educational efforts to ensure that consumers get the information they need to better understand the process and benefits of food irradiation.

Public Citizen knows that proposed changes to existing labeling requirements are designed for one purpose: to ensure that consumers stop perceiving irradiation labeling as a 'warning label' on foods. This change is important because, as long as consumers feel they are being 'warned' about irradiated foods, few if any manufacturers will utilize this important food safety tool. Broader use of irradiation promises a significant step forward in further improving U.S. food safety.

Dr. Applebaum pointed out that "FDA works in concert with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Department of Transportation to oversee the safe use of food irradiation. Public Citizen's attack on FDA, therefore, is an attack on the integrity of each of these regulatory agencies."