E. Coli Linked Beef Recall Underlines Need for Irradiation

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New York, NY May 1, 1998. The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) today stated that the recent recall of more than one-quarter million pounds of ground beef emphasizes the need for a safety step that can be applied at the final stage of ground meat processing. That step is irradiation.

ACSH notes that only irradiation and no other safety process such as steam or ozone processing can be applied to ground beef after it is packaged. Stated Dr. Ruth Kava, ACSH director of nutrition, The unique benefit of irradiation is that it is done at the end of processing, so it's less likely that contaminated ground beef will leave the plant.

The largest American meat packer, IBP Inc., tried to recall the ground beef when it was notified that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had found the E. Coli O157:H7 in samples of ground beef produced on April 14. No cases of illness connected with the contaminated meat have been reported; much of it has already been sent to retail outlets and consumers, and it is assumed that most has been consumed. Consumers should always cook ground beef to an internal temperature of at least 160° Farenheit.

Irradiation, which does not diminish either the taste or nutritional value of food, has been approved for various applications by the World Health Organization and by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In the United States, the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association and the Institute of Food Technologists have joined ACSH in endorsing the use of irradiation to augment the safety of the American food supply.

It is important that consumers understand that food irradiation is safe, states Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of ACSH. Food irradiation does not make food radioactive any more than a dental x ray makes teeth radioactive. Irradiation is meant to supplement not replace the implementation of food safety by other means.