A US politician is trying to push through a bill in the US senate which will allow for a clear labelling policy on irradiation in the National School Lunch Programme.
Representative Barbara Lee has said that she willsponsor a right-to-know bill on irradiated food in an attempt to give parents and children the opportunity of whether or not to choose irradiated foods.
Advocacy group Public Citizen described Lee's efforts as "a giant step forward for consumers in the emergingpublic debate about irradiation."
If passed, the bill would mandate thedistribution of balanced information about irradiated foods used inschool lunch programmes, requiring all irradiated food to be clearlylabelled.
Current regulations in the US state that irradiated food does not need to belabelled if served in schools, hospitals or restaurants.
"Therefore,children and their parents will not know if the food served on schoollunch trays has been irradiated. Lee's bill seeks to change that,and rightfully so. It is vital for parents to know what their childrenare eating. They deserve balanced information not slick industrypropaganda about what irradiation does to food," a spokesperson from Public Citizen said.
The advocacy group also highlighted studies which show significant opposition to irradiated food and concernabout the lack of labelling for it. One group that has had reservations about food irradiation iswomen with school-age children. The US Food and Drug Administration(FDA) held six focus groups during the summer of 2001 in which consumerswere asked their opinions of labelling for irradiated foods. In itsreport to Congress, the FDA stated that, "Everyone agreed thatirradiated foods should be labled honestly."
As the bill moves through congress it will be closely observed on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US the industry is already firmly established, but in Europe tougher legislation largely outlaws the irradiation of foods. However, the outcome of the bill would undoubtedly have a bearing on future legislation over food irradiation on a global basis.