For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Lauren Wright, 
(202) 683-4929

GAO Report Critical of FDA Food Irradiation Policies; Calls for Increased Transparency on Controversial Technology

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

WASHINGTON -  “A new report by
the Government Accountability Office (GAO)
on the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA’s) oversight of food irradiation highlights the
agency’s lackluster performance. The report details poor communication
by the FDA about decisions and policy on this controversial technology.
Since the GAO has historically been an advocate for irradiation, it is
telling that the report does not encourage the FDA to expand the use of
this technology; but rather urges the agency to better communicate the
status of pending petitions for further use of food irradiation.”

“The report also discusses further research that could be performed
on the potential formation of furan, a possible carcinogen, in
irradiated foods. Before the FDA moves forward with any of the pending
petitions to allow irradiation for more food types, the agency must rule
out the potential for elevated furan formation during the irradiation

“In addition, the GAO report examines the issue of irradiated food
labeling requirements.  The report concludes that proposed changes to
labeling rules for irradiated food could increase the amount of food
irradiated (with the resulting increase in business being the primary
reason why the food irradiation industry has pushed for this change for
more than a decade). Right now, the FDA is considering a proposed rule
that would allow irradiated food to be labeled as “pasteurized” or be
sold without labeling at all, despite numerous polls and focus groups
revealing that consumers consider the use of the word “pasteurized” on
irradiated food labels to be misleading.  Twice in the last decade, the
FDA has considered proposals that would weaken labeling requirements for
irradiated food – proposals which tens of thousands of consumers have
urged the agency not to adopt . In 2007, for example, 73 percent of
respondents in a national poll rejected the FDA’s proposed labeling
changes as too radical.”


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“The FDA has been tasked with ensuring the safety of consumers, not
promoting irradiated food at the behest of an industry seeking to sell
its product.  The FDA must guarantee that consumers are receiving
accurate information about the food they purchase.”

“The GAO was correct in calling on the FDA to be more transparent
about its food irradiation decision-making.  The FDA can start by
throwing out its proposal to eliminate labeling requirements for
irradiated food.”


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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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