SUPPORTERS OF IRRADIATING BEEF GAIN GROUND ON CAPITOL HILL

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- The case for irradiating ground beef is being made on Capitol Hill, where efforts are under way to force the Food and Drug Administration to act soon on a petition to approve the controversial procedure.Rep. Greg Ganske, R-Iowa, has taken up the cause and is addressing it on two fronts. First, he successfully attached an amendment to a House version of the Food and Drug Administration

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- The case for irradiating ground beef is being made on Capitol Hill, where efforts are under way to force the Food and Drug Administration to act soon on a petition to approve the controversial procedure.

Rep. Greg Ganske, R-Iowa, has taken up the cause and is addressing it on two fronts. First, he successfully attached an amendment to a House version of the Food and Drug Administration reform bill this month that would require the FDA to act within 60 days. The agency has been considering the request for more than three years.

Should his amendment be struck from the FDA bill when it is reconciled with a Senate version, Ganske has introduced a bill that would declare low-dose irradiation for red meat approved. It would not mandate that hamburger be treated with electronic pasteurization, but would allow the process to be used.

His bill also would amend labeling requirements so people would know when they are buying irradiated meat. A separate radiation disclosure statement that is more prominent than the declaration of ingredients would be required on food labels.

Ganske's measure also would require restaurants to notify customers if they serve irradiated meat. Restaurants would be given latitude in how they would provide customers with the information, and possible methods could include advertising or placing it at the bottom of menus.

One of the few physicians in the House, Ganske is a firm believer in food irradiation, which he said is a 40-year-old technology.

"It has been tested and retested for undesirable consequences or side effects and been proven safe," he said in a press conference. "It has been used by the Army, by astronauts and by hospitals. Low-dose irradiation is already approved for use in the United States on poultry, pork, spices and fruits and vegetables. There is no reason not to irradiate ground red meats. Tests show that it is safe, effective and affordable, yielding a product that is just as tasty without the risk."

Supermarkets, grocers and processors say they have been resisting the implementation of the practice because they believe consumers are suspicious about its health consequences. Yet in the aftermath of back-to-back food contamination scares, there is some belief consumers may be more willing to buy irradiated food.

The FDA reform bill is expected to be approved by Congress before it adjourns later this year.