An industry trade association, National Fisheries Institute (NFI), petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to allow for the irradiation of mollusks in 1999. In 2001, NFI filed another petition with the FDA toallow for the irradiation of crustaceans, including shrimp. FDA is currently evaluating those petitions, while the industry is pressuring the agency to move forward and approve the petitions.
Irradiation is the process by which food is exposed to high doses of radiation-the equivalent of up to 1 billion chest x-rays. Irradiation kills bacteria and extends the shelf life of food, but destroys vitamins and creates new chemical compounds. Problems include, but are not limited to, premature death, fatal internal bleeding, prenatal death, suppressed immune systems, tumors, stunted growth and nutritional deficiencies.
Irradiation addresses less than seven percent of contamination found in seafood. In fact, if consumers believe their food to be safe, they are less likely to follow strict handling and cooking precautions and are more likely to get sick as a result. If the seafood industry truly wants to protect consumers, it should educate them about the real sources of poisonings, instead of offering them a deceptive security blanket.
The letter, as below:
Lauren Tarantino, Director Office of Food Additive Safety (HFS-200) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Parkway College Park, MD 20740-3835 fax: 301-436-2973
Dear Ms. Tarantino:
Re: Docket No. 99F-4372 and Docket No. 01F-0047, amendment of Food Additive regulations to allow for the irradiation of fresh or frozen molluscan shellfish and crustaceans and processed crustaceans.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my serious concern over the petitions currently being considered by the FDA regarding the irradiation of seafood. In 1999 and 2001, two petitions were submitted to the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition by the National Fisheries Institute to allow for the irradiation of seafood. Irradiation is not an acceptable option for protecting consumers from seafood poisoning. Instead, it may cause unnecessary health concerns. I ask you to not approve this petition.
The level of irradiation necessary to kill naturally-occurring bacteria in seafood will cause deterioration of texture and juiciness, as shellfish are delicate foods. Low levels of irradiation cannot kill all bacteria present in seafood. Irradiation does not obliterate food-borne viruses that cause more than 9 million people to become sick annually. It also won’t cleanse seafood of methylmercury, which causes neurological birth defects, or of the toxins that cause shellfish poisoning. More importantly, irradiation will not protect consumers from the top sources of seafood poisoning: unsafe holding temperature, poor personal hygiene, inadequate cooking, and contaminated equipment.
Irradiation not only offers consumers a false sense of security, but also poses a host of health concerns to consumers. Recent research hasshown that one type of chemical created by irradiation, alkylcyclobutanones, promotes cancer development and genetic damage in rats and genetic damage in human cells.
As a concerned consumer, I am urging you not to allow the irradiation of seafood. Thank you for considering my concerns.