- The Food Safety Consortium Newsletter
- Vol. 12, No. 2
- Spring 2002
- New Pathogens
Will Keep Researchers Busy, IFT Says
- Home Remedies
for Food Safety Warrant a Second Look
- Food Safety Should
Also Include Public Health, JIFSR Head Says
- OFPA Urged to
- Report From the
- FSIS Seeking
Major Push on Bioterrorism
- Pierson, Crawford
Appointed to Federal Posts
- Murano Views
Performance Standards as Food Safety Key
- Papers and Presentations
- Food Safety Digest
- New Pathogens Will Keep Researchers Busy, IFT Says
- Although scientists have made great strides
in finding new ways to increase the safety of the nation's food
supply, consumers should not expect the marketplace to become
entirely free of dangerous organisms at all times. That is the
conclusion announced by a team of scientists assembled by the
Institute of Food Technologists.
- The panel released its report in February
at the IFT's national convention in Atlanta.
Twenty-one scientists contributed to the report, headed by Morris
Potter, the lead epidemiologist at the Food and Drug Administration's
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Jim Dickson, program
director for the Food Safety Consortium at Iowa State University,
was one of the 21 panel members.
Copies of the 107-page report - titled Emerging Microbiological
Food Safety Issues: Implications for Control in the 21st Century
- and related materials are on line at http://www.ift.org/govtrelations/microfs.
"Scientific research has resulted in significant success
in improving food safety, but the current science underpinning
the safety of our food supply is not sufficient to protect us
from all the emerging issues associated with the complexity of
the food supply," the experts stated in the report's conclusion.
"The body of scientific knowledge must be further developed,
with our research efforts carefully prioritized to yield the
greatest benefit. Food safety and regulatory policies must be
based on science and must be applied in a flexible manner to
incorporate new information as it becomes available and to implement
new technologies quickly. The food industry, regulatory agencies
and allied professionals should develop partnerships to improve
food safety management," according to the report.
The scientists further stated that the rates of certain foodborne
diseases have been driven down thanks to food manufacturers,
consumers and regulatory programs. Regulatory policies should
be based on science, the IFT team said, noting that such policies
based on sampling and testing "may incorrectly imply an
absence of pathogens, causing some individuals to assume that
it is unnecessary to engage in proper food selection and handling
But the IFT said it was unlikely that the marketplace would be
made always free of the presence of pathogenic microorganisms
"given the characteristics of some foods, available technologies
and our desire for year-round availability of a diverse array
While acknowledging that much progress has been made in minimizing
contamination of animal carcasses during slaughter, the IFT scientists
said the occasional presence of pathogens on meat and poultry
carcasses is unavoidable. "Greater attention to preventing
cross-contamination and undercooking may have more impact on
the public's health than further reductions in the already small
numbers of E. coli O157:H7 occasionally present in raw
ground beef," the report's authors said.
The scientists also emphasized proper hygiene and sanitation
in handling and preparing food, the use of appropriate methods
of refrigeration and freezing and thorough cooking as effective
ways to prevent foodborne illness. After the application of good
management practices and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control
Points provides safe foods, "the individuals preparing the
food must use proper knowledge, attitudes, skills and practices
to achieve food safety."
The food safety community must be prepared to respond to changes
prompted by advances in science, which must be accomplished by
"unfettered data sharing." Food safety systems must
emphasize validation and verification of methods used to assure
"A flexible, science-based approach that relies on all parties
to fulfill their role is our best weapon against emerging microbiological
food safety issues," the report concluded.
The report's separate sections address in depth the science of
pathogenicity, humans as hosts of foodborne diseases, microbial
ecology and foodborne disease, the application of science to
food safety management and the next steps in food safety management.
Home Remedies for Food Safety Warrant a Second Look
- The up side of the nation's emphasis on
food safety is that more consumers are actively looking for ways
to prevent foodborne contamination from making its way into their
homes. The down side is that they can sometimes spend money on
items that are not very effective.
- For example, consumers can buy home ozonating
units on the market to reduce contamination on the surfaces ofraw
food products. Food Safety Consortium researchers at Kansas State
University advise that consumers could achieve equally effective
results using tap water.
"You have to really know what you're doing to apply ozone
in a manner that would be effective as a food antimicrobial,"
said Randall Phebus, a KSU food microbiology professor and Food
Safety Consortium researcher. "You can't just assume that
getting a little bit of ozone in the water with a home system
is going to make remarkable changes in the safety of your product.
Ozone has to be controlled and you have to know how you're maintaining
the ozone in the water."
Ozone is defined as activated oxygen and can be a natural purifier
to deter microorganisms that contaminate food. Water that has
been ozonated has been identified by scientists as a potential
agent to prevent waterborne and foodborne illness. The food industry
is looking at ozone as a means to reduce pathogenic bacteria
and extend the shelf life of food.
Phebus' research team tested a home ozonating unit to determine
its effectiveness in reducing the presence of three pathogens
- E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella typhimurium and Pseudomonas
aeruginosa - attached to meat and produce. The researchers
examined chicken thighs, iceberg lettuce and apples that were
inoculated with the pathogens and rinsed them with ozonated water
and ordinary tap water.
"Both rinsing treatments significantly reduced each bacterial
population when compared to the inoculated unwashed control,"
the researchers' report said. "However, the ability of ozonated
water and tap water to inactivate E. coli O157:H7, S.
typhimurium and P. aeruginosa was not different."
The results showed that ozone was more effective in inactivating
pathogens on the surfaces of apples than it was with lettuce
and chicken surfaces. But Phebus pointed out that the surface
is not the main problem with apples.
"It's the stem and the organisms that actually get down
inside the apple," he said. "So none of these wash
systems will be effective. You can wash the surface but it doesn't
make any difference."
This does not necessarily mean that home ozonating units are
useless, but several factors can determine whether one gets significantly
better results than ordinary tap water provides. The bottom line
is the particular ozone unit must be capable of producing enough
ozonated water to get an effective ozone concentration to all
food product surfaces for significant microbial decontamination
to be achieved.
- Phebus noted that ozone can serve as a
decontaminant for the food industry and that smaller meat rooms
in retail stores may someday have portable units that will be
effective in washing food surfaces.
"But I am also sure that we're going to have several fly-by-night
companies trying to build these units and market them to your
average Joe," he added.
KSU researchers are working with companies with considerable
commercial experience in ozonem application to develop food decontamination
systems based on effective use of ozone.
"KSU and the Consortium are definitely going to be working
with companies that make these systems to validate their effectiveness
for food industry use," Phebus said. "I anticipate
success in bringing effective technology to the market."
- Food Safety Should Also Include Public Health, JIFSR
- Protecting the public's health is the
point of food safety efforts, and that concept is a key element
of how Jerry Gillespie believes the food safety system should
Food safety has traditionally been regarded as a "farm-to-table"
project, but Gillespie wants to widen that continuum at each
"An integrated food safety 'environment-to-person' science-based
approach is necessary to support the existing interdependent
system," Gillespie said in the keynote address at the Institute
of Food Technologists convention in February in Atlanta. Gillespie
is director of the federal Joint Institute for Food Safety Research.
The environment portion at the front of the system includes air,
water and soil, Gillespie said, and the endpoint should be the
maintenance of humans' health and well being. "Too often
we look at food safety as what's at the end of the table and
not as what caregivers provide," Gillespie said. "We
need to pay attention to public health systems and health delivery
The changing world environment affects food safety because new
priorities for the use of natural resources include non-agricultural
uses and competition for use of water, he said.
Gillespie listed as current food safety successes achievements
such as making the public aware of foodborne diseases, developing
better foodborne disease and pathogen reporting, improving regulations,
progress in international dialogue and improving the education
of food handlers and consumers.
Gillespie explained that international travel and world trade
have increased the chances of foreign diseases' introduction
into the U.S. Globalization has also increased the danger of
bioterrorist attacks on the food supply, animals and humans.
Coordinated research efforts must be used to deal with the threat.
The Joint Institute for Food Safety Research was established
in 1998 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department
of Health and Human Services as an information nexus, Gillespie
said. Its mandate is to assemble a food safety portfolio, coordinate
planning and to foster partnerships.
"There were gaps in sharing information available to the
scientific community" prior to the institute's start, Gillespie
said. The institute's work should improve food safety information
so that decision making is improved, he added.
- OFPA Urged to Be Proactive
- The U.S. food industry's top priority
is maintaining the world's best food safety system, but it spends
too much time "playing catch-up" on food safety questions,
says a prominent industry official.
Kelly Johnston, executive vice president for government affairs
of the National Food Processors Association, delivered his remarks
to the Ozark Food Processors Association's 96th annual convention.
The OFPA, in association with the University of Arkansas Institute
of Food Science and Engineering, featured food safety as the
theme of its convention and exposition March 26 and 27 in Springdale,
The NFPA has created a task force among its regional affiliates
to improve food safety systems based on science and risk assessment,
He called on the industry to be more proactive in food safety
issues because consumer organizations "with a pseudo-science
agenda are on the offensive."
While legislation in response to bioterrorism is being considered
in Congress, Johnston noted, "we in the food industry are
the front line in the battle against bioterrorism." There
are, however, disagreements over how to fight the battle.
Johnston referred to the government's proposal presented to Congress
last fall by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson,
which Johnston said would greatly increase the Food and Drug
Administration's authority. The NFPA supports efforts to obtain
more resources for FDA to fight bioterrorism, but it believes
existing laws provide the necessary authority.
In October, Thompson proposed changing existing laws pertaining
to imported foods. Thompson's letter to Congress said "new
records maintenance and records inspection authorities would
facilitate determination of the cause and scope of serious violations
of food safety laws. FDA would have authority, during a public
health emergency, to detain foods that presented a serious threat
of serious illness or death."
Johnston said such administrative detention authority would bring
"unprecedented access to your company's records."
Johnston predicted that if another terrorist attack occurs, Congress
would consider additional proposals such as authorizing the FDA
and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to recall food products,
federal licensing of food processing plants, mandating across
the entire food chain the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control
Point procedures now required of meat and poultry processors,
closing of ports, labeling of foods containing allergens and
the establishment of a single federal food safety agency.
- Report From the Coordinator
- By Gregory J. Weidemann
- The Institute of Food Technologists recently
released the product of 21 of its experts who investigated the
current state of food safety in the U.S. An article elsewhere
in this edition of The Food Safety Consortium Newsletter
summarizes some of the findings
and points readers to the web site where the full report can
be downloaded (http://www.ift.org/govtrelations/microfs).
The report, Emerging Microbiological Food Safety Issues: Implications
for Control in the 21st Century, serves many purposes in
updating the food safety community as to the big picture around
us and also as to the value of our research. It tells us that
our best efforts won't totally eliminate food safety problems
and that we have plenty of work ahead.
Take note of the report's opening statement: "The continued
occurrence of foodborne illness is not evidence of the failure
of our food safety system. In fact, many of our prevention and
control efforts have been - and continue to be - highly effective.
The U.S. food supply is arguably among the safest in the world,
but significant foodborne illness continues to occur. Despite
great strides in the area of microbiological food safety, much
remains to be done."
The team of scientists that produced the report specifically
pointed out that the overall matter of food safety is not a question
of finding a solution but rather "a complex combination
of factors that must be managed on a continual basis." That's
a good definition of the focus of the food safety research performed
in the FSC and elsewhere: finding ways to continually manage
this continuing problem.
Food safety issues themselves change over the years. Today we
are investigating pathogens that weren't known to us in previous
decades. As we seek to bring under control today's pathogens,
we do not know what microorganisms may face us in future years.
That reality motivated the panel to get a handle on the long-term
The panelists were charged with "identifying the factors
that make a microorganism 'emerge' as an important foodborne
pathogen and identifying mechanisms that use this knowledge to
improve the safety of our food supply." The resulting report
seeks to increase understanding of this scientific information
that will influence public policy and research agendas.
The report elaborates on a couple of basic points.
* One is that a "trinity of factors" causes foodborne
illness: the susceptibility of the human host, the pathogen and
the environment in which they exist. Concentration on each of
these factors' complex interactions with each other is a key
to reducing foodborne illness.
* Current technologies and production methods cannot provide
a food supply free of all pathogens, but small reductions in
the impact of the factors can have substantial combined effect
in reducing foodborne illness.
The report makes the case for the need for continued research:
"A science-based food safety management framework should
use food safety objectives to translate data about risk into
achievable public policy goals."
That also happens to explain much of what the Food Safety Consortium
is all about.
- FSIS Seeking Major Push on Bioterrorism
- Protection of the food supply against
intentional harm - essentially biosecurity - is one of the goals
of the federal Food Safety and Inspection Service.
"We're taking a multifaceted approach to biosecurity, which
includes both short- and long term strategies," said Paul
Resweber, acting district manager of the FSIS field office in
Springdale, Ark. Resweber, during a speech to the Ozark Food
Processors Association convention in March in Springdale, explained
the five goals that Elsa Murano, U.S. Department of Agriculture
undersecretary for food safety, has set for FSIS.
Resweber said the Bush administration is proposing an allocation
of $328 million in emergency funding to USDA to strengthen biosecurity-related
programs, with FSIS receiving $15 million of that allocation
for security upgrades and protection against bioterrorism.
The FSIS funds will be allocated to education, specialized training
for inspection personnel, expanding the agency's capabilities
to test meat and poultry products for suspected chemical agents
and strengthening biosecurity and physical security at FSIS facilities.
Application of science to all FSIS policy decisions is another
of Murano's goals, which Resweber described as essential in protecting
"One way to accomplish this is to use risk assessment as
a way to identify hazards and provide a basis for making risk
management decisions," Resweber said. "We are gaining
more experience in this area and are better able to use the data
gathered by FSIS through its regulatory decisions to make policy
Resweber noted that FSIS has established a risk assessments section
at its Washington headquarters. "Risk assessment studies
must be designed not only to discover what the risk is but also
how our behaviors, our practices and industry's behaviors and
practices will affect that risk. And then we must be able to
communicate that risk to consumers."
Murano also seeks to improve coordination of food safety activities
inside and outside of USDA, Resweber said. "This has been
going on for some time with active participation of FSIS and
joint efforts with out sister agencies," he said. He cited
the Food Net surveillance program that looks for signs of outbreaks
of foodborne illness in certain population areas.
Another goal set by Murano - to enhance the agency's outreach
and public education efforts - comprises efforts to make FSIS
the entity that consumers consult for food safety education.
Murano "is seeing an aggressive education and risk communication
campaign to insure that our efforts reach consumers," Resweber
The full potential of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control
Point system has yet to be realized, Resweber said. Improvements
can be made in regulating HACCP systems.
"Is industry identifying the correct critical control points
and can their choices be justified scientifically?" he asked.
"This is necessary for all hazards associated with these
foods to be appropriately addressed and controlled."
- Pierson, Crawford Appoiinted to Federal Posts
- Two prominent figures in the food safety
research community have been appointed to positions in the federal
government. Merle D. Pierson was named deputy undersecretary
for food safety in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Lester
M. Crawford Jr. was appointed deputy commissioner of the Food
and Drug Administration. Both appointments were announced in
Pierson was professor of food microbiology and safety at Virginia
Tech University prior to his appointment by Agriculture Secretary
Ann Veneman. At Virginia Tech, Pierson had also been head of
the food science and technology department and acting superintendent
of the Center for Seafood Extension and Research. He has served
as a consultant to government and industry on several food safety
As deputy commissioner, Crawford began serving FDA as its senior
official pending installation of a permanent commissioner. He
was previously head of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy
in Washington when he was appointed to the FDA position by Health
and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. He has also served
as director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, executive
director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges,
executive vice president of the National Food Processors Association
and chair of the University of Georgia physiology-pharmacology
- Murano Views Performance Standards as Food Safety
- This is an excerpt of opening remarks
prepared for delivery by Dr. Elsa Murano, USDA undersecretary
for food safety, before the Committee on Review of the Use of
Scientific Criteria and Performance Standards for Safe Food on
Feb. 5 in Washington.
When I began my tenure as undersecretary for food safety, I emphasized
that my number one priority was to ensure that food safety policies
are science-based. My commitment to this goal has only
become stronger over the past four months that I have been on
I believe that FSIS' food safety program has come a long way
in recent years. Today's program is more science-based
in many important areas.
For example, HACCP is now in place in all meat and poultry plants,
a major achievement carried out by government and industry together. We
have seen reductions in the prevalence of Salmonella on
products and reductions in foodborne illness for certain pathogens.
Let me take a few minutes to talk specifically about the role
of performance standards in improving food safety. Science tells
us that they serve as a critical measure of process control.
They are the markers that point to potential problems that must
be addressed in order to maintain control of hazards. However,
it is not enough to set just any performance standard. The
wrong standard can mislead us into believing that systems designed
to control hazards are working when maybe they are not. Thus,
we must be sure that performance standards, and microbial
criteria in general, are reliable, and that they are accurate
in terms of reflecting when control of hazards has been lost.
The recent public debate over FSIS' Salmonella performance
standards illustrates some of the tough questions that remain.
Our ability to answer these questions and design effective regulatory
programs has a major impact not only on food safety, but also
on consumers' confidence in the ability of the government to
protect them. For example, some believe that the recent
circuit court decision on the Supreme Beef case has taken away
the power of the USDA to shut down plants that fail to control
hazards. This is simply wrong, and we must do a
better job of communicating that FSIS is very much able to enforce
its Pathogen Reduction/HACCP regulation.
So, a lot is at stake here. If we are to use performance
standards, as science dictates we should, then we need to determine
how standards should be used to accomplish the goal of ensuring
food safety, and which standards are the ones that will successfully
take us there.
I know the National Academy of Sciences is in a unique position
to explore these difficult issues. The role of the NAS as
a special advisor to the federal government, and the expertise
it is able to bring to the table are important qualifications.
I'd like to take a moment to speak to the people who will be
doing the work for the NAS. Being selected to serve on
a committee of the NAS is indeed an honor, and it is a testament
to your expertise and to your standing in the scientific community.
I know most of you personally, and am certainly familiar with
the fine reputation that all of you have as scientists and scholars. You
are all professionals and people of integrity, so I have no doubt
that the product of your efforts on behalf of the National Academy
of Sciences will be of the highest caliber. ...
Now, let me get to the charge to the committee, which is why
I'm here today. As you know, a parent committee has been formed,
which will address overlapping issues that affect both FSIS and
FDA-regulated products. ...
Two subcommittees have also been formed, with the one of interest
to FSIS being the Subcommittee on Meat and Poultry. This
subcommittee will specifically address meat and poultry, which
are regulated by FSIS. Specifically, we are asking the subcommittee
1. Review the extent to which microbiological performance standards
are an appropriate means of ensuring the safety of meat and poultry
products in a HACCP-based system. This is a very basic, but fundamental,
question for FSIS, since the success or failure of performance
standards to accomplish the goal of ensuring food safety can
significantly impact our decision to implement them.
2. Evaluate the scientific basis for existing FSIS microbiological
performance standards and recommend ways to improve them. We
want to know what process should be used to establish these criteria
so they are scientifically valid. There are questions regarding
the use of specific pathogens vs. general classes of microorganisms
which are at the heart of this issue. If we implement new
standards, it must be because they are better than our current
standards at predicting control over foodborne hazards.
3. Examine whether current FSIS criteria, including microbiological
performance standards, accomplish what they purport to accomplish.
Do they ensure a reduction in public health hazards? Are they
technically, economically, and administratively feasible?
Standards that do not impact public health are useless, and so
we must be sure that in our aim to seek a way to verify process
control, we do not overlook this very important outcome.
4. Evaluate the way criteria are used under the HACCP rule and
recommend specific changes for improvement, if any are needed.
5. Finally, we are asking the subcommittee to determine the extent
to which the current process is adequate for establishing microbiological
food safety criteria, or, if necessary, identify improved ways
to establish criteria.
I also want to emphasize that FSIS needs this evaluation in the
context of its regulatory setting. Our policies must be science-based,
and must be applicable in a regulatory setting. Thus, you must
think not only as scientists, but you must also consider the
correct way for the application of your science-based recommendations
Believe me when I say that I wish I had the answers to all these
questions today. I read in a fortune cookie that "patience
is virtue," so I will have to be patient and wait for the
committee and subcommittee to do its work.
- Papers and Presentations
- Daniel Fung,
Kansas State, received the 2001 Waksman Outstanding Educator
Award from the Society for Industrial Microbiology. He was recognized
for his accomplishments over his career. The citation called
Fung "an educator, researcher and tireless worker in promoting
food microbiology, food fermentation, applied microbiology and
especially rapid methods and automation in microbiology throughout
the world in the past 30 years. ... Fung is truly a dedicated
educator in applied microbiology."
Beth Ann Crozier-Dodson and Kendra Kerr Nightingale,
both of Kansas State, each received $10,000 V. Duane Rath Graduate
Research Fellowships awarded by the International Association
of Food Industry Suppliers. Crozier-Dodson is a Ph.D. student
and research assistant studying under FSC researcher Daniel
Fung. She is researching the koshering of meat, lactic acid
intervention, prune extracts, "Pop-Up" tape, antimicrobial
effects of cinnamon and resuscitation of injured organisms from
air. Crozier Dodson also won the M.E. Franks Scholarship offered
by the Dairy Recognition and Education Foundation and is the
first student to win the Rath Fellowship and the Franks Scholarship
in the same year. Nightingale, a Ph.D. student in the Cornell
University food science department, received bachelor's and master's
degrees in food science at KSU. She is researching the human
and animal foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.
Kelly Getty, Liz Boyle, Randall Phebus and Curtis Kastner,
all of Kansas State, received an $80,000 grant from the Kansas
attorney general's office for interactive distance learning food
John A. Fox, Kansas State, presented a paper on "Factors
Affecting Purchase Decisions on irradiated Foods at Retail and
Food Service Settings" in March at the Food Irradiation
2002 conference in Dallas.
John A. Fox, Kansas State, Dermot J. Hayes, Iowa
State, and Jason F. Shogren, Wyoming, co-authored "Consumer
Preferences for Food Irradiation: How Favorable and Unfavorable
Descriptions Affect Preferences for Irradiated Pork in Experimental
Auctions" in Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 24 (2002):
Michael A. Boland, Dana Hoffman and John A. Fox, all of Kansas State, co-authored "Post-implementation
Costs of HACCP and SSOPs in Great Plains Meat Plants" in
Journal of Food Safety, 21 (2001): 195-204.
Chrstiane Schroeter, Karen P. Penner and
John A. Fox, all of Kansas State, co authored "Consumer
Perceptions of Three Food Safety Interventions Related to Meat
Processing" in Dairy, Food and Environmental Sanitation,
21 (2001): 570-581.
James Huss and Dan Henroid,
both of Iowa State, have been cited by the National Science
Teachers Association for their work on the irradiation page of
the ISU food safety project web site. The NSTA's professional
review committee reviewed the site "using a stringent set
criteria that ensure selected materials have accurate content
and effective pedagogy." The web site's content is now eligible
to be identified in science textbooks with a SciLinks icon that
direct readers to the web page for more information. The web
site was also recognized with the Fall 2001 Bronze Award as "one
of the best health-based sites for consumers and professionals."
The American Association for the Advancement of Science also
recommended its use in classrooms. Restaurants and Institutions'
Food Safety Update magazine recognized it as one of the top food
safety web sites.
Henroid and Huss also published an article titled "Educating
Consumers on Food Safety Via the World Wide Web" in the
Journal of Applied Communication, 85 (3): 19-20. They also delivered
presentations on "Feasibility of Web-Based Food Safety Training
in Iowa Restaurant and Food Service Operations" in July
at the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional
Education conference in Toronto and on "Educating Consumers
on Food safety Via the World Wide Web" in July at the Agricultural
Communicators in Education/National Extension Technology Conference
in Toronto. Henroid delivered a presentation on "Food Safety
Project Update" in August at the International Association
of Food Protection conference in Minneapolis.
- Food Safety Digest
By Dave Edmark
- Almost two-thirds of the respondents to
a national opinion survey last fall were concerned about the
prospect of bioterrorists contaminating the U.S. food supply
with anthrax or biological agents.
The Porter Novelli public relations firm of Washington questioned
1,008 adults by telephone. A breakdown of the results shows that
only 23 percent were not concerned with bioterrorism while 64
percent were concerned.
When asked if they agreed that irradiation could be used to kill
anthrax and other biological agents, 51 percent said they agreed.
Twelve percent disagreed and 37 percent were either unsure or
The respondents were then asked if the government should require
irradiation to ensure a safe food supply in response to the bioterrorism
threat. Fifty-two percent said the government should require
irradiation, 22 percent said it should not and 26 percent were
either unsure or didn't know.
* * *
In markets where irradiated frozen ground beef is offered, sales
are going well if a marketing program exists. Christine Bruhn,
director of the University of California-Davis Center for Consumer
Research, said recently that the purchase of irradiated meat
products "will increase with increased consumer education
and public endorsements by health professionals."
Writing in Poultry USA's e-Digest in December, Bruhn said
she is working with colleagues in nine states on a brochure and
video tape about irradiation "that is accurate, science-based
and responsive to consumer needs." She said the brochure
explains why consumers should consider irradiation, defines irradiation,
responds to potential questions and notes what health groups
endorse the process.
Bruhn listed several cases of successful marketing of irradiated
food: irradiated fruit has been available in Midwest markets
since 1992, irradiated fruits from Hawaii have been sold in the
Midwest and California since 1995 and Kansas consumers have purchased
irradiated poultry in market tests conducted by Kansas State
University since 1996.
* * *
- Irradiation is the poultry industry's
biggest opportunity, according to Alan Sams, a Texas A&M
University poultry science researcher. Food safety is the industry's
top issue and such issues are likely to continue, he wrote in
the February edition of Poultry USA.
"Food safety is certainly a justifiable issue and our poultry
and plants are cleaner now than ever, but the industry is not
using all of the tools at its disposal," Sams said. "Irradiation
has tremendous potential to greatly ease this crisis. While it
will not solve all the problems, and may even cause some new
concerns, it is not being used effectively in the poultry industry.
"Irradiation is an extensively studied technology that eliminates
the pathogens we all want out of the food supply. The reluctance
to use irradiation boils down to one main issue, fear. Not fear
of the product by the consumers, but fear by the industry that
a small group of the population will be trouble for them. Some
visionary and opportunistic company will see the chance and mainstream
Sams echoed points that Bruhn made, noting that irradiated foods
are already being sold in certain markets and consumer surveys
find favorable attitudes toward irradiation when they are informed
of its effect on pathogens.
"The vast majority of consumers are more concerned with
the pathogens than the irradiation procedure," Sams said.
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