Irradiated Food Could Be Harmful (

Irradiated Food Could Be Harmful (

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Friday September 23rd 2005, 11:12 am Filed under: Health Secrets

FDA Ignoring Evidence that New Chemicals Created in

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ignored growing evidence that a new class of

chemicals formed when food is irradiated could be harmful, according to a report released today by

Public Citizen and the Center for Food Safety. See

The groups are urging the FDA to refrain from legalizing irradiation for any additional types of

food until the new chemicals are tested for safety.

The chemicals, called cyclobutanones, do not occur naturally anywhere on Earth. They

recently were found to cause genetic damage in rats, and genetic and cellular damage in human

and rat cells. The groups’ report, Hidden Harm, details how the FDA has ignored this unique class of chemicals,

which are created in many irradiated foods that the agency has legalized for sale in this country –

including beef, pork, chicken, lamb, eggs, mangoes and papayas. It is expected that

cyclobutanones also would be formed in many other foods the FDA is currently considering to

The organizations today also released a sworn affidavit of toxicologist William Au, who was

retained by the groups to independently review the risks posed by cyclobutanones and other

chemicals formed by irradiation that could cause genetic damage.

Along with a letter outlining numerous health concerns caused by food irradiation, the groups filed

Hidden Harm and Au’s affidavit with the FDA to oppose pending petitions to legalize irradiation

for processed foods, which comprise 37 percent of the typical American’s diet; molluscan

shellfish, such as clams and oysters; crustacean shellfish, such as lobsters and shrimp; and meat

A fifth petition seeks to double the maximum dose of radiation to which poultry can legally be

exposed. “The risk that the FDA is taking with the health of the American people cannot be

overstated,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and

Environment Program. “If government officials knowingly allow people to eat food that contains

these chemicals, they are courting a major public health disaster.”

Though federal regulations require the FDA to determine whether food additives proposed for

human consumption are likely to cause cancer, birth defects or other health problems, the agency

has not done so for cyclobutanones, nor have agency officials explained why they have failed to

do so. Under federal law, irradiation is considered a food additive.

Americans likely are unwittingly eating irradiated foods containing cyclobutanones.

Though most irradiated food sold in stores must be labeled, there is no such requirement for

restaurants, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other institutional settings. And there is no

labeling requirement for foods with irradiated ingredients, except those containing irradiated meat.

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