The controversy surrounding food irradiation continues this week in the US with a declaration from the Centre for Food Safety that 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.
The Public Citizen and the Centre for Food Safety groups are urging the FDA to refrain from legalising irradiation for any additional types of food until the new chemicals are tested for safety.
According to a statement by the Centre for Food Safety the chemicals in question are a class of cyclobutanones that do not occur naturally anywhere on Earth and 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 legalised for sale in this country including beef, pork, chicken, lamb, eggs, mangoes and papayas.
.The organisations 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 legalise irradiation for processed foods, which comprise 37 per cent of the typical American's diet; molluscan shellfish, such as clams and oysters; crustacean shellfish, such as lobsters and shrimp; and meat products. 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, the groups say.
The report, Hidden Harm, can be viewed at www.citizen.org/documents/HiddenHarm