Contact: Lori O. Willis, Dir. of Communications
Schnuck Markets, Inc., (314) 994-4602
January 13, 2003
Schnucks Introduces Irradiated Ground Beef in Metro Area Stores
Grocer Launches Education Effort to Shed Light on Food Safety
ST. LOUIS -- Schnuck Markets, Inc. today became the first grocer in the
St. Louis area to announce plans to sell irradiated fresh ground beef and frozen beef patties. Irradiated beef has been exposed to a beam of electrons that significantly reduces bacteria and the risk of foodborne illnesses.
According to Cy Jansen, vice president of meat merchandising at Schnucks, metro area stores will sell fresh ground beef chubs ("chub" refers to the plastic packaging, similar to that of pork sausage) supplied by Excel, a subsidiary of Cargill of Wichita, Kan. Frozen beef patties will come from Huiskens of Saulk Rapids, Minn. The SureBeam® Corporation of San Diego, Calif. will irradiate the ground beef and beef patties in their Sioux City, Iowa facility.
Jansen said irradiated ground beef is simply another choice for customers, particularly those who are the most vulnerable to infection. "Cooking ground beef to the proper temperature of 160 degrees kills bacteria, including Salmonella and
E. coli 0157:H7. Customers who are very young, elderly, pregnant or struggling with weakened immune systems will benefit from the added security that comes through irradiation."
Mark Stephenson, vice president of communications for SureBeam®, explains, "Irradiation kills bacteria by using ordinary electricity in the form of an electron beam. Exposure to this energy source virtually eliminates E. coli, which is present in some form in the majority of ground beef. The benefit is similar to that of milk pasteurization."
Schnucks is an industry leader and has been leading the way in food safety for the past several years. According to Schnucks Food Safety Director Dianna Pasley, irradiation is just one more way to guard against contamination prior to purchase. "In the aftermath of recent food recalls, it's important that we look for alternative ways to protect our food supply."
Pasley added, "It's important to remember that although irradiation reduces the level of harmful bacteria, it does not protect against recontamination through improper handling. Consumers must continue to practice good food safety habits in the home."
Jansen encourages consumers to learn more about irradiated ground beef and to stop by selected Schnucks store for samples Jan. 17 - 19. He admits that for some, the first step is accepting the name. "We believe the name, perhaps the most controversial part of launching irradiated ground beef, has hindered its acceptance." Jansen emphasized that the SureBeam® process uses ordinary electricity, not gamma or cobalt, as the energy source.
Schnucks first offered SureBeam® irradiated ground beef in its Peoria and Pekin, Ill. stores last winter. While sales of the product met Schnucks expectations, Jansen says education is the key to greater acceptance. He said, "The microwave oven was met with resistance. Today, nearly every home has this technology."
Although Schnucks is the first local grocer to offer irradiated ground beef, the grocery industry has embraced the irradiation process as an additional way to ensure product quality.
Irradiated beef is now being offered in nearly 40 countries and is endorsed by numerous health organizations and regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to Stephenson, "Our company (Surebeam®) alone has placed fresh and frozen irradiated beef in more than 4,000 grocery stores nationwide."
Irradiation is also being used to reduce or eliminate bacteria in produce. The process delays the ripening and sprouting of fruits and vegetables (Schnucks does not carry irradiated produce at this time).
Schnuck Markets, Inc. currently operates 102 stores and 93 pharmacies in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Mississippi. This includes five stores that operate as Logli Supermarkets and a stand-alone Sentry drug store. Schnuck Markets, Inc. is currently ranked 83rd in the Forbes Magazine listing of the nation's "Top 500 Private Companies."
Consumers will find additional information on irradiation at www.surebeam.com. Food safety information from Schnucks can be found on www.schnucks.com.
# # #