Irradiation companies join forces to refine perception

ONTARIO: Six companies involved in the controversial practice of food irradiation have formed a new trade association to work on public education and lobbying efforts to gain public acceptance for irradiated foods.

ONTARIO: Six companies involved in the controversial practice of food irradiation have formed a new trade association to work on public education and lobbying efforts to gain public acceptance for irradiated foods.

ONTARIO: Six companies involved in the controversial practice of food irradiation have formed a new trade association to work on public education and lobbying efforts to gain public acceptance for irradiated foods.

The group, although less than a month old, has already taken on The Strategy Group in New Jersey to lobby against a state proposal to ban the sale of irradiated foods there for five years, said Craig Hunter, a committee member of the new Food Irradiation Processing Alliance. Hunter is also VP business development for MDS Nordion, a Kanata, Ontario-based irradiation firm.

The alliance's members supply 95% of the irradiation services now available in North America.

US regulators such as the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture have been gradually approving use of irradiation to kill germs and pathogens in various foods. Chicken, red meats and eggs now can be irradiated to kill food-borne diseases. By the end of this year, the FDA might also approve the use of irradiation on packaged meat products such as hot dogs and luncheon meat.

While advocates say irradiation is safe, the concept has been a difficult one to sell to consumers who often equate radiation with danger. Retailers, thinking such products won't sell, have been reluctant to carry irradiated meat and poultry, although earlier this year Wal-Mart said it would test selling such foods.

The new alliance initially will work with food-processor trade groups, perhaps offering informational brochures or other educational materials, Hunter said. Next, it will target retailers and, eventually, consumers.

'We will look to answer questions raised by people who raise (questions of) bad science about irradiation,' Hunter said.

The alliance hasn't hired a PR firm or permanent staff yet, but eventually could consider both. Hunter's firm is working with CMF&Z out of Des Moines, a PR shop that also has worked with another irradiation company, Food Technology Services, in Mulberry, FL.

Food Technology has also worked with Shandwick's Washington, DC office, staging a cookout with irradiated hamburgers in February when the USDA issued its approval of irradiation for ground beef.



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