News Release
 January 6, 2003
CONTACT: Stefanie Zakowicz
(716) 635-5885

New Product Provides Customers with Added Assurance of Food Safety

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. – Beginning mid-January, Tops Friendly Markets will expand its product line in the Butcher's Block Meat Department to include irradiated ground beef in many of its major markets including stores in New York, Pennsylvania and selected locations in northeast Ohio. Due to local ordinances, irradiated beef will not be sold in the Parma, Parmatown or Lakewood Tops stores.

Food irradiation is a food treatment comparable to heat pasteurization, canning or freezing that breaks down bacteria making the foods safer for consumption. The process involves exposing food, either individually packaged or in bulk, to a concentrated beam of electrical energy. It is called a "cold process" because it does not significantly increase the temperature of the foods being processed while eliminating nearly all food-based diseases including E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and others. (Source: U.S. Food & Drug Administration)

"Food safety is of growing importance to our consumers and has always been a top priority for Tops," said Dale Faunce, vice president, meat & seafood. "Irradiation can be an effective way to help reduce food-borne hazards and ensure that harmful organisms are not in the foods we buy."

Consumer studies conducted on a national basis indicate that 45 to 55 percent of consumers are willing to buy bacteria-reduced, irradiated meat. One reason is the emergence of new types of harmful bacteria or evolving forms of older ones that can cause serious illness.

Tops will sell irradiated beef products including 85% lean and 90% lean ground beef. The beef will be labeled and marked to inform consumers they are buying a food that has been processed. The irradiated meat selection will make up about 5 percent of the ground beef offered at Tops. Price-wise, the irradiated beef will cost 20 to 30 cents more per pound than the regular ground beef.

"We are constantly seeking better ways to manage our food supply by various means of preservation in order to control spoilage, and food-borne diseases," said Faunce. "While most of our sales will still be non-irradiated beef, we think our customers will appreciate the option of choice."

Foods irradiated at their optimal storage temperature and in air-tight packages, will last longer and retain more of their original texture, flavor and nutrient value than foods thermally pasteurized, sterilized or canned. The process is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is endorsed by the major public health organizations including the American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Dietetic Association and the U.S. Surgeon General.

While food irradiation reduces the food-borne illness risk, Faunce is cautious in specifying that the process complements but doesn't replace, proper food handling practices. Consumers should continue to follow these safety guidelines when preparing and cooking ground meat products:

Clean - Everything that touches food should be clean, as cleanliness is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness. Separate - Fight cross-contamination by keeping raw meat and poultry away from cooked foods or raw vegetables. Using separate cutting boards and utensils when handling both cooked and uncooked foods. Cook - Use a food thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of beef reaches at least 160 degrees F. Chill - Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food, and leftovers within 2 hours of purchase or preparation. Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator and cook immediately after thawing. Food-borne illnesses affect 76 million consumers and account for 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths each year, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Food irradiation improves the safety of foods for the people most highly susceptible to such illnesses, including diabetics, transplant patients, people on cancer therapies, HIV/AIDS patients, and the very young and elderly.

For more information on food irradiation, consumers are encouraged to pick up consumer brochures available at participating Tops Friendly Markets, or visit the following websites:

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition - U.S. Department of Agriculture – Food Marketing Institute - Tops Markets, LLC is one of six retail operating companies under Ahold USA, one of the leading supermarket operations in the U.S. Tops currently operates 156 Tops Friendly Markets, 207 convenience stores under the Wilson Farms, Sugarcreek and Tops Xpress banners, and 9 B-Kwik Food Markets in New York, Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio. Tops' website can be found at


Press Room Archive