This last week (April 4), the Food and Drug
Administration of the US government proposed to revise its labelling regulations
for irradiated food. This proposal is no simple matter; in fact, it would be a
major change in policy regarding irradiated food. (Comment
No more labels
Mainly, it intends to rid food companies of the obligation to label any food
that has been irradiated unless that food suffered a material change due to
irradiation. The FDA defines material change as "a change in the organoleptic,
nutritional, or functional properties of a food" - as long as consumers aren't
able to tell the difference when buying the product.
This is another perfect example of "hiding the truth", exactly what the
poultry industry should be running away from.
The consumers view of animal husbandry
Recent years have seen a backlash from consumers on many animal husbandry
practices that have become standard, but that most people were unaware of.
Basically, as poultry production has moved into intensive mode, the average
consumer still holds the image of the family farm of old, where chickens lived
in coops and the farmer threw corn on the ground every morning for his poultry
A case in point is the recent increase in the sale of organic foods;
furthermore, the processed foods market is already reacting by offering
"natural" foods, limiting the types of ingredients on a product to those found
in most family kitchens (and not strange-sounding stuff like
The effect of this proposal unknow
Because it is still a proposal, it's not entirely clear how it might affect
the poultry industry. The proposal does make it clear that each product type
would have to be approved on a case-by-case basis. Fresh poultry has the
advantage that it is already approved for irradiation.
However, practical experience shows that irradiation does produce certain
colour changes in poultry meat, making it attain a certain reddish-pinkish tinge
that remains throughout the cooking process. It's possible that these changes
would fall within the organoleptic properties considered by the proposal, but
it's too early to tell.
My point, however, is that by hiding the fact that the chicken people consume
is irradiated, no matter how much microbially safer that might make it, the
poultry industry could be setting itself up for a huge backlash once consumers
became aware of it. Therefore, beware of this proposal; you're only playing with