USDA seeks comments on how to follow congressional directive on irradiation

Nov 25, 2002 (CIDRAP News) – The US Department of Agriculture says it wants to hear from the public about how to implement a congressional directive to allow the purchase of irradiated foods for the federal school lunch program and other commodity programs.

The department has had a long-standing policy of not buying irradiated foods for its commodity programs. But in the farm bill passed earlier this year, Congress ordered the USDA not to exclude the use of any federally approved food safety technology when buying food for the programs. In late October, USDA officials said they might implement a new policy by the end of this year.

In a Nov 22 announcement, officials said USDA will consider comments as it begins to examine specifications for implementing the directive. USDA doesn't normally seek public review of specifications. But a USDA official told CIDRAP News earlier this month that some in the department viewed the irradiation issue as important enough to justify inviting public comments.

People are invited to mail comments to USDA at Livestock and Seed Programs, Agricultural Marketing Service, US Department of Agriculture, Stop 0249, Room 2092-S, Washington, DC 20250-0249. Comments can be sent by e-mail to foodsafetytechnology@usda.gov and by fax to 202-720-3499. There is no deadline for submitting comments, officials said.

USDA also announced it has set up a new Web page, www.usda.gov/fst, with information about various food safety technologies. The page includes fact sheets, questions and answers, research findings, and other information.

The department approved irradiation of raw meat and poultry in December 1999, following approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997.

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