Several Florida retail outlets found food safety to be at the top of shoppers' grocery lists recently when they sold out of irradiated fresh ground beef. The product was first made available June 16 through a partnership between Food Technology Service, Inc. and Colorado Boxed Beef Company (CBBC).

Wyndle's Foodland, Plant City, Fla., is one of several retailers that has been experiencing strong sales. Wyndle's conducted product-tasting, other in-store promotions, and local advertising over the holiday weekend, which contributed to positive customer reaction to CBBC's New Generation brand of irradiated product.

"The response has been very enthusiastic so far. We've had customers drive as far as 60 miles to get the lean, healthy, and safe product," said Randy Childers, Meat Manager for Wyndle's. "They want the dual health benefit - a 90 percent lean, premium quality product with an extra measure of protection against food-borne pathogens."

Irradiation is a process similar to pasteurization which uses ionizing energy to eliminate bacteria in food, such as E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food-borne illness affects more than 76 million Americans annually, resulting in 5,000 deaths.

"Although you can never put a price tag on someone's life, it is important to note that Americans are spending $5 to $6 billion on medical costs related to food-borne illnesses annually. Irradiation will reduce the financial expenditures, and more importantly, protect the public. It is truly a matter of public health," said Dr. Richard Hunter, Health Officer, Florida Department of Public Health.

Customers can identify fresh irradiated ground beef by the international symbol for irradiation - the radura - a green flower inside a broken circle, which is increasingly becoming recognized as a symbol for food safety.

"The irradiation of ground beef is frequently compared to the pasteurization of milk for the revolutionary food safety benefits it provides. But, if early signs of customer demand are any indication, irradiation will gain public acceptance much faster than pasteurization did," said Pete Ellis, President of Food Technology Service.

Food Technology Service was the first dedicated commercial food irradiator in the nation and currently irradiates the food consumed in space by NASA astronauts. In addition, Food Technology Service conducts ongoing testing and irradiation for major meat and poultry processors.

Food Technology Service, the country's most experienced commercial food irradiation company, is dedicated to preventing food-borne illness by working with the public health community and industry in a concerted, strategic effort to educate consumers about irradiation's role in food safety.