News | May 20, 1999

NFPA Says Irradiated Food Labels Should Encourage, Not Alarm

It is the position of the National Food Processor Association (NFPA) that the labeling of irradiated food should be such that consumers are encouraged to select those products, rather than frightened away.

In comments filed earlier this week, the NFPA urged the FDA to "assert its role as the 'food safety agency' and provide regulations to encourage rather than discourage the use of a technology that will enhance the safety of the food supply."

NFPA's comments addressed questions posed by FDA in an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), published in the Federal Register on February 17, 1999.

The ANPR follows a citizen petition to FDA filed by NFPA on May 21, 1998, that asserted that the Agency's current "radiation" disclosure requirements for irradiated foods are neither scientifically nor legally justified, and requested that FDA remove the labeling requirements for irradiated foods.

"NFPA believes that the current 'radiation' disclosure misleads consumers by suggesting a government-directed caution or warning statement," said Regina Hildwine, NFPA's Director of Food Labeling and Standards.

NFPA's arguments were supported by information from research it conducted and co-sponsored in 1998 and 1999.

Other points gleaned from the research included:
•Consumers respond to the terms "radiation" and "irradiation" in a negative manner.
•Consumers view the term "treated with radiation" as a cautionary directive. Few consumers express willingness to purchase foods with such a label statement. Many consumers articulate apprehension about the safety connotations of such terminology.
•The terms "radiation" and "irradiation" are the aspects of the required statement that trigger alarm.

Alternate language may be less threatening to consumers (a phrase such as "cold pasteurized" has been suggested as a good synonym for the irradiation process). NFPA also believes consumers would be well served by label statements that describe the beneficial effects of food irradiation.

NFPA is the voice of the $430 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs.