A.M.I. urges action on carcass irradiation rule

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — James H. Hodges, executive vice-president of the American Meat Institute, said on Feb. 5 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture should move forward with rulemaking in response to a petition filed more than four years ago by A.M.I., which asks U.S.D.A. to recognize carcass surface irradiation as a processing aid.

Any questions, concerns and data can be addressed in an open and transparent manner by initiating a rulemaking process that involves all stakeholders, he said.

This was Mr. Hodges response to several reports about the status of the petition. Contrary to some news reports, the petition remains under consideration at U.S.D.A. and has not been rejected, he said.

A.M.I. asked F.S.I.S., by filing its petition on July 8, 2005, to recognize the use of low-dose, low-penetration, electron-beam irradiation applied to the surface of chilled-beef carcasses as a processing aid and that the process need not be labeled on products derived from the carcass, Mr. Hodges said. A.M.I. said in its petition carcass irradiation should be treated as a “processing aid” because it only treats the surface of the carcass and does not irradiate the entire product. Other processing aids applied to the exterior of carcasses do not trigger product labeling and this technology should not either, he added.

“F.S.I.S. has all the information it needs to move forward with rulemaking," Mr. Hodges said. “During the rulemaking process, F.S.I.S. should set the parameters by which this technology is permitted to be used. The role of government is to establish the standards for using this safe and effective technology. Companies that meet the standards and parameters set by F.S.I.S. in a rule should be permitted to include this effective intervention in their food-safety systems.”

Carcass irradiation is a different application of a proven technology, but one that merits a prompt review in an open rulemaking process, Mr. Hodges said. “Given F.S.I.S.’ important role in ensuring public health, the agency should work to remove road blocks that prevent the adoption of safe and promising technologies,” he said. “U.S.D.A. has the authority to initiate this rulemaking today and could have done so even absent a petition.”

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