The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a consortium of more than 350 physicians and scientists, is urging school boards and parents to approve irradiated meat for school lunch programs.

The ACSH editorial urges local school boards and parents to familiarize themselves with the safety benefits of the irradiated ground beef that is now available for the federal school lunch program. Read the piece at: www.acsh.org/press/releases/lunches060203.html .

Ruth Kava, ACSH director of nutrition, says: "Some groups urge consumers to avoid irradiated foods because of purely hypothetical concerns about the process. We think that consumers should embrace the process because of its proven ability to improve food safety."

USDA recently published its specifications for suppliers of irradiated ground beef to the federal school lunch program. The products will be available to school districts in January 2004 if a particular school district decides it wants to provide them to its students.

ACSH says irradiated meat is especially appropriate through the school lunch program because young children are among the groups most at risk to the most serious consequences of an E. coli 0157:H7 incident. Therefore, parents should be relieved to learn this technology will now be available for their children's protection, ACSH says.

Elizabeth Whelan, ACSH president, says that when parents and local school boards educate themselves about food irradiation, "they will likely want the process used to enhance the safety of ground beef served to their children."

For more info on food irradiation, see ACSH's recently updated booklet, "Irradiated Foods." It can be downloaded from: www.acsh.org/publications/booklets/irradiated2003.html .

-- Joe Roybal