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San Francisco Bans Irradiated Food in Schools!

PUBLIC CITIZEN * PARENT VOICES

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release:
April 27, 2004

Contact: Tracy Lerman, cell (650)
867-0389

San Francisco School Board Bans Irradiated Food from School Lunch
Program Concerned Parents and Consumer Groups Praise Decision

SAN FRANCISCO - In a unanimous vote last night, the seven
members of the San Francisco Board of Education followed five other
California school districts by passing a resolution that forbids the
116-school system from purchasing irradiated food for any of its meal
programs for five years. This resolution follows a USDA decision to
include irradiated ground beef in the National School Lunch Program,
which provides free or reduced price school lunches to 27 million
children annually; 61% of SFUSD's students qualify for the federally
subsidized meal program.

California is leading the country with a new trend of banning
irradiated food from their school cafeterias in order to safeguard
students who would otherwise have no way to protect themselves from
eating meat that has been treated with the controversial irradiation
technology. Federal law states that while irradiated meat must be
labeled in grocery stores, it does not have to be labeled when served in
cafeterias, restaurants, or hospitals.

"The USDA clearly ignored the will of the public when it
approved irradiated foods for the National School Lunch Program," said
Mark Sanchez, school board commissioner and co author of the resolution.
"San Francisco's ban will send the USDA a message that they can't use
our children as guinea pigs for this questionable technology."

In May 2003, the USDA decision to approve irradiated meat for
the school lunch program was controversial because the federal agency
sided with industry over parental concerns. More than 400 comments from
Californians were submitted during the open comment period. Of the
thousands of comments in total, 93% opposed the proposal to include
irradiated meat in children's lunches. In March, the Parent Advisory
Council to SFUSD voted 14-1 in favor of banning irradiated meat from San
Francisco schools. The Student Advisory Council and the United
Educators of San Francisco, the union representing San Francisco public
school teachers, also support the ban.

"The growing number of school districts banning irradiated
foods is evidence of an increasing demand for wholesome, healthy, and
nutritious food in schools," said Tracy Lerman, an organizer for
Public Citizen's safe lunch campaign based in Oakland, Calif. "I
applaud the San Francisco school board for prioritizing the health of
their students by banning this nutritionally bankrupt food."

Irradiation exposes food to a dose of ionizing radiation to kill
bacteria; however, research has shown that it depletes essential
nutrients and vitamins from the food and also produces chemicals that
are known or suspected carcinogens. Last year, the Los Angeles Unified
School District passed a similar ban on irradiated meat, calling it
"ludicrous" to use children as a test group for eating irradiated
food when the long-term health effects are unknown.

To date, no school district has purchased irradiated meat
through the USDA for the 2004-2005 school year.