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Los Angeles

Panel OKs Irradiated Food Ban

L.A. Unified board fears the germ-killing process may destroy nutrients.

September 10, 2003|Erica Hayasaki | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday banned the use of irradiated food from its campus cafeterias, even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year decided to allow irradiated meat to be served to millions of children enrolled in federally subsidized lunch programs.

Irradiation exposes meat, fish, fruits and vegetables to low doses of electrons or gamma rays to destroy deadly microorganisms such as E. coli and salmonella. But some consumer groups warn that not been enough research has been done on whether irradiation destroys essential vitamins, possibly endangering health.

"The consequences of using our children as guinea pigs, in the second-largest school district in the country, is very frightening to me," said Board of Education member Julie Korenstein, who sponsored the motion. "I believe we need to err on the side of caution."

Five of the seven board members approved the motion. Members Mike Lansing and Marlene Canter were not present for the vote. Canter had left the meeting to help deal with the aftermath of the shooting of three students Tuesday near Taft High School, which is in her district.

Last year, the Department of Agriculture announced that districts can buy irradiated meat for about 27 million schoolchildren receiving free or reduced-price meals beginning in 2004.

Jacqueline Domac, a teacher at Venice High School who campaigned successfully to ban soda sales on campuses starting next year, said the district is moving toward creating a healthy environment. In other matters, the school board voted to oppose Proposition 54, the measure on the Oct. 7 statewide ballot that would ban government agencies from collecting and using many types of racial and ethnic data.

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