July 24, 2000

Public Citizen Challenges U.S. Government Decision to legalize the Irradiation of Eggs

Radiation 'Treatment' of Eggs Will Deplete Vitamins, Disrupt Proteins, Mask Factory Farm Filth

WASHINGTON, D.C. 3/4 Public Citizen is formally challenging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) decision to legalize the use of high-level radiation to "treat" eggs. Already, the FDA is allowing flour, spices, vegetables, fruit, poultry, pork and beef to be irradiated -- despite the well-documented, negative side effects of this process.

"The all-American breakfast is quickly becoming the all-irradiated breakfast," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "The FDA's decision is not only scientifically irresponsible, but it is an insult to Americans who expect to wake up in the morning to a fresh, wholesome meal."

The FDA unveiled Friday in the Federal Register a regulation legalizing the irradiation of eggs, effective immediately. In response, Public Citizen is asking the FDA both to delay implementing the new regulation and to hold a public hearing on it.

Among other problems -- some of which the FDA acknowledged in its Register notice -- irradiated eggs are deficient in vitamin A and niacin, are aesthetically displeasing and difficult to cook with, and contain potentially dangerous levels of free radicals (chemical compounds that react with and weaken cell membranes). Irradiated eggs also can disrupt the interaction between proteins and enzymes that are essential for proper blood flow, digestion and other biological functions, studies show. Moreover, irradiation serves to mask the wretched conditions in which chickens are raised in today's factory farms, while creating opportunities for salmonella bacteria to mutate -- perhaps into hardier strains.

Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns, an agricultural practices accountability group based in Machipongo, Va., also denounced the FDA's decision.

"Once again, we have a concession by our government, in collusion with the agriculture industry, to ignore husbandry and embrace technological interventions that are being used to dazzle the public as a substitute for cleaning up filthy environments."

Food irradiation carries numerous side effects. The process destroys nutrients, spawns free radicals that make the body more susceptible to cancer and diabetes, masks filthy slaughterhouse practices, and forms carcinogens such as benzene and formaldehyde. In 50 years of research conducted worldwide, lab animals fed irradiated food have suffered premature death, cancer, reproductive and immune problems, liver and kidney dysfunction, low birth weight, nutritional muscular dystrophy, chromosomal damage and other serious problems.

FDA officials have ignored these problems, relying instead on questionable research -- some of which never has been translated into English -- that has obscured the ell-documented hazards of exposing food to radiation.

The request to irradiate eggs was made by Edward Josephson, who during the 1960s and 1970s oversaw the U.S. Army's food irradiation headquarters in Massachusetts, where dozens of studies revealed serious health problems in lab animals that ate irradiated food, including premature death and cancer. Currently, Josephson's research is being underwritten by MDS Nordion, an Ottawa-based company with links to a Canadian government agency responsible for the proliferation of nuclear technology to China, India and Pakistan.

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