Legislating Euphemism: "Irradiation" Out, "Pasteurization" In

"If a last-minute provision in the Senate farm bill becomes law, irradiated hamburger could become known by a more appealing name: pasteurized beef," New York Times reporter Elizabeth Becker writes. "Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who heads the Senate Agriculture Committee, said today that he had inserted the provision in an effort to 'more clearly define pasteurization,' the process by which disease-producing bacteria have long been destroyed in some foods through heating. But neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the Agriculture Department has yet to agree that meat treated by radiation, a process approved by the government two years ago, should qualify as pasteurized. Food safety advocates argue that the legislative provision is an effort to avoid F.D.A. regulatory procedures that would ordinarily be needed in order to define irradiation as a form of pasteurization for labeling purposes. Both the industry and Mr. Harkin deny any such end run. Mr. Harkin's home state is also home, in Sioux City, to the main plant of the SureBeam Corporation, the No. 1 irradiator of ground beef sold in the United States."