USDA’s Allowing Schools to Serve Irradiated Meat is Reckless

Warns the Cancer Prevention Coalition


            (Chicago, IL - November 1, 2002) - The recent decision by the Agriculture


Department allowing meat sterilized by irradiation to be served in the National School


Lunch Program endangers the health of millions of school children.

            “USDA claims that irradiated food is safe, and that low levels of radiation are used do not even pass the laugh test,” warns Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition.  The Parent Teacher Association, nationally, regionally and locally, and parents are urged to boycott irradiated food, and protect children from serious risks to future health and life.

            Irradiated meat is a very different product than natural meat.  This is hardly surprising as the approved irradiation dosage of 450,000 rads. is some 200 million times greater than a chest X-ray.  Apart from high levels of benzene, new chemicals known as “unique radiolytic products” have been identified in irradiated food since the 1970’s.  Contrary to USDA assurances, which have been rejected by a high level expert FDA committee in addition to independent scientists, these pose risks of cancer, and genetic damage, as demonstrated in test tube, animal tests and also children.  Furthermore, as admitted by a USDA report, cooking irradiated food depletes its vitamin content, resulting in “empty calorie food.” 

            Irradiation is now being aggressively promoted by the food industry to divert attention from grossly unsanitary conditions in factory style feedlots, slaughterhouses and packing plants, and to sterilize meat contaminated with feces.  The recklessness of the industry is encouraged by recently leaked UDSA instructions which discourage federal meat inspectors from preventing fecal contamination of meat:  “Remember YOU are accountable for the very serious responsibility of stopping the company’s production for the benefit of food safety.”

Our warnings on the dangers of irradiated food are endorsed by some 25 independent national and international experts, and by Public Citizen and other consumer groups.

Sanitation, but not irradiation, is the answer to preventing food poisoning. 



Media Contact:  Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Chairman, the Cancer Prevention Coalition; Professor emeritus, Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, phone 312-996-2297;