MINNEAPOLIS - A national consumer group has charged Cub and other area supermarkets of charging “outrageous” prices for their newly introduced irradiated frozen ground beef.

     Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group based in Washington, D.C., said, “The meat industry has said for years that irradiation would add only five cents per pound of ground beef. But according to our telephone survey, area stores are charging as much as 75 cents more per pound — a 40 percent premium — for irradiated meat. Byerly’s, Lunds, and Rainbow typically charge 40 cents extra per pound. Cub, charges between 10 cents and 75 cents extra per pound at different stores, apparently testing to see how much it can gouge from consumers. In fact, last week, the University Avenue Cub was charging $1.50 extra per pound, a 100 percent premium.”

     According to CSPI, the irradiated ground beef, produced by Huisken’s Meat of Chandler, Minnesota, is just about the highest-fat hamburger meat at stores, 25 percent fat.

     The survey found the following prices (though prices at individual stores may vary):

(25% fat)
Cub, 1440 University Avenue West, St. Paul$1.75/lb.$2.50/lb.
Cub, 1059 Meadowlands Drive, St. Paul$1.83/lb.$2.50/lb.
Cub, 2900 West Highway 13, Minneapolis$2.40/lb.$2.50/lb.

     CSPI agrees with health officials that irradiation reduces the risk of food poisoning, but says that safety questions remain. CSPI has urged the meat industry to employ cheaper, more conventional methods — such as hygiene, safe chemical rinses, steam pasteurization, and others — and use irradiation only if those are not sufficient.

     “CSPI is strongly committed to reducing the annual death toll from food poisoning,” said Jacobson. “But it should be done in the most sensible, economical way possible. Irradiated foods may be most beneficial to the most vulnerable individuals: toddlers, senior citizens, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems. Unfortunately, high prices may put safe food out of reach for low-income consumers.”