Omaha Steaks yesterday denied charges filed with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that it does not clearly inform its catalog and Web site customers that its ground beef products have been irradiated.
Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, Washington, filed the complaint with the FTC last month.
Todd Simon, senior vice president at Omaha Steaks, Omaha, NE, said the cataloger strictly follows federal government labeling regulations by placing the irradiated symbol on all hamburger packages. The company also provides brochures with extensive information on the irradiation process and provides information on its Web site.
Mark Worth, senior researcher at Public Citizen, said Omaha Steak's Web site does not clearly list where to find the information.
“You have to click around a bit before finding it,” Worth said. “If you're a consumer and you're looking for products and click ground beef, you won't see a statement that the meat is irradiated. Obviously with the catalog it is the same situation. There is nowhere in it that says the ground beef is irradiated.”
Omaha Steaks retooled its Web site last month, allowing for easier navigation to find information on irradiation — a move that was initiated weeks before the complaint was filed, Simon said.
“We have not heard from the FTC, nor to my knowledge are we under any investigation,” Simon said. “We can't speculate what Public Citizen's real agenda is, and I'm puzzled to why they are opposed to this technology that has been around for 50 years.”
Simon said the company might consider placing information about irradiation in its catalogs in the future, but he said the decision not to do so currently is based on marketing efforts.
Irradiation technology is used to kill harmful bacteria, including E. coli, in raw meat. It also reduces the levels of listeria, salmonella and campylobacter. The food is not radioactive, and while there is a slight loss of nutrients, the food is largely unchanged, according to the Food and Drug Administration.