1/13/03 - Irradiated Meat Now Available in Cape Girardeau

Are you worried about bacteria in red meat?  If so, shoppers in the Cape Girardeau area now have a new option when it comes to beef - meat that is pre-treated for bacteria.
There's a new product in the meat department at Schnucks. You may not even notice it at first, but it's irradiated ground beef and chuck, to reduce bacteria.

"I didn't even notice it!" laughs Jim Hastings, a shopper we caught up with after he picked out freshly ground chuck."My grandkids, you know," says Joanie Talley.  "I think children are especially vulnerable to e-coli, so I'm all for this." 

It comes wrapped like sausage, and there's no big sign announcing it's arrival. And they also have irradiated boxes of hamburger patties. Schnucks is keeping it low-key, calling it just one more alternative for people trying to eat safer.
"People with low immune systems, and who like their ground beef rare," says Dennis Marchi, manager of  Scnhucks.  "This helps them feel secure and safer.  However, you still have to take the precautions not to cross-contaminate the meat while you're preparing it."
 Irradiated. It's such a new concept, especially around here. But should you be leary about buying irradiated meat, instead of fresh ground beef?
"I think it's a great way to get rid of the bugs," says Joanie.  "I don't have a problem with it."
Dr. Miller, a radiologist at Southeast Missouri Hospital, says in his opinion, there's no reason why irradiated meat would be harmful to people. And the process is endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration. The beef is irradiated by SureBeam corporation, which uses a beam of electrons to kill e-coli and other bacteria.
"It's not done by x-ray," explains Dennis. "It's just high-energy sources of electricity that bombards cases of beef and kills the e-coli and other bacteria."
Marchi admits it's not a big seller, saying it's so new, most shoppers aren't even aware it's available. And if you do want the "ground beef you can feel good about" -- you also need to feel good about paying 10 to 20 cents a pound more.
Depending on how their sales of ground beef go, Schnucks may expand their line of irradiated products to include produce and chicken.