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Although food irradiation technology is supported by such groups as the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization, consumer and other public interest groups are concerned about its safety. A major worry is the irradiated food itself. The process has been studied more than any other food-processing method and no unfavorable health effects have been found, the US Council for Agricultural Science and Technology concluded in a report last year.

But according to Donald Louria, chairman of preventative medicine at the New Jersey Medical School, some of those studies contain methodological flaws. His article in the September edition of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists suggests further testing before the technology is allowed to spread.

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Irradiation plants also pose environmental and safety risks, critics say. In June 1988, a cesium irradiator in Decatur, Ga., was shut down because of a serious accident that exposed 10 workers to radiation.

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