Meat irradiation petition on hold as parties blame each other

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fsis

Confusion continues to surround the lack of progress on a US meat industry appeal to allow electron beam irradiation as a meat processing aid – with each side blaming the other for the delay.

The ongoing saga involves a petition on e-beam technology submitted to the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) by the American Meat Institute (AMI). The meat association is requesting that authorisation be granted so that e-beam irradiation can be applied to the surface of chilled beef carcasses as a food safety processing aid. Even though the trade body submitted the request in 2004, the FSIS has yet to make a decision on the matter.

The simmering dispute has dragged on with both sides claiming the other is responsible for the petition being seemingly stranded in the regulatory process.

Last September, the AMI published a letter it sent to the safety body urging action on the five-year-old request. The FSIS responded by saying the issue was being held up because it was waiting for the AMI to answer some of its queries on the petition. The trade association told FoodProductionDaily.com it had never received any questions or concerns from the FSIS.

The controversy was re-ignited last week when the North American Meat Processors Association (NAMP) published a report of a meeting it had with nine senior FSIS officials, including administrator Al Almanza, which covered the irradiation impasse.

“This issue is not currently moving forward as FSIS believes the petitioner has several concerns that need to be addressed”,​ said the NAMP document in recording the federal agency’s alleged response to a request for an update on the carcass irradiation petition.

FoodProductionDaily.com sent the document to the FSIS and requested clarification on the matter.

“The topic has not been shelved and is not off the table,”​ said an agency spokesman. “FSIS informed the American Meat Institute (AMI), the petitioner, that the Agency has questions about their petition. AMI needs to provide answers to the questions in order for FSIS to be able to act further on the petition​.”

The meat body again denied being contacted by the FSIS, saying it had “received no formal response to our petition including questions or concerns that FSIS may have”.

The AMI executive vice president James H Hodges also told FoodProductionDaily.com there was no reason to continue delaying evaluation of the matter.

AMI has submitted all information needed for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to move forward and publish a proposed rule regarding treating carcass surface irradiation as a processing aid”,​ he said. “Questions or issues about the technology are best addressed through the rulemaking process that will be required to establish the parameters regarding applying this proven food safety technology. We look forward to a favourable response from FSIS.”

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