Publix to sell treated meat

Publix, one of the top 10 supermarket chains in the United States., said it will begin selling irradiated meat products effective Jan. 1, 2003.

Through the process of irradiation, bacteria such as E. coli, Campylo-bacteria, Salmonella, parasites, and fungi are lessened. According to the Food and Drug Administration, irradiation also allows foods to last longer.

Publix will sell irradiated frozen ground beef, frozen chicken tenders, and frozen chicken breasts.

Irradiation is the process of killing harmful bacteria with the use of radiation. The food is exposed to radiant-energy for a brief moment, said. Faye Bronner, the public affairs specialist for the Florida District of the FDA The energy waves that pass through the food breaks down the molecular bonds of the DNA of the bacteria. This causes the bacteria to either die or become unable to reproduce.

Lee Brunson, director of community affairs for Publix, said consumer demand was the reason for choosing to offer irradiated products.

“We believe many customers would like the option of purchasing these products as another line of defense against food-borne illness,” Brunson said.

Philip Simmons, 20, a junior engineering student from Charleston, S.C., said he was concerned about what irradiated products could possible do to his body.

“If it did have some affect on your body, then the FDA would not have approved of it,” Bronner said.

According to the FDA, a study was done at the University of Georgia where a mock supermarket was set up. The researchers explained what irradiation was to the participants. The study reported that after the participants understood the process, 84 percent of the participants said irradiation was either “somewhat necessary” or “very necessary.”

“I don’t have a problem with it, just as long as I still have a choice between irradiated and non-irradiated products,” said Lydia Harris, 20, a junior psychology student from Orlando. By law, all stores that sell irradiated products are supposed to label the products with the special irradiation symbol and the wording: “treated with radiation.”

Publix said it will sell the irradiated products under the label, “New Generation.”

Brunson said in the future the supermarket chain hopes to sell irradiated fruits and vegetables as well but non-irradiated products will still be available.

The new method of food safety, despite FDA approval, has drawbacks.

Irradiation may cause a small loss of nutrients. It will also cost consumers $0.10 to $0.20 per pound more.

Brunson said extra services and protection being provided caused the increase in price.

In spite of the numerous questions and feedback that the FDA and Publix have received, and the increased cost, Bronner says that the FDA has only one concern, “the health and welfare of the public.”