When the Department of Agriculture approved the use of irradiation for fresh and frozen red meat in 1999, the public reacted coolly. And when Dairy Queen announced a few weeks ago that it would start serving irradiated burgers, the professional anti-consumer scaremongers at Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen, the Organic Consumers Association, and the misnamed Center for Food Safety kicked their propaganda campaigns into high gear. These activists argue that the new technology could eliminate vitamins and minerals from food, and even cause human cancers.

But despite the hysteria, common sense can surface and survive. Largely due to the postal anthrax scare and a few recent ground beef recalls, Americans are finally starting to embrace meat irradiation. On Tuesday the Tampa Tribune editorialized that “irradiation is one more layer of protection that consumers can count on without any harmful side effects.”

But what of all those dire warnings of doom and gloom? In perhaps the most definitive debunking of anti-irradiation arguments to date, USA Today noted on Monday that although “environmental and consumer advocacy groups try to blunt the trend toward irradiation by playing up old stereotypes about Big Macs that glow in the dark… many of their arguments about the health dangers are false.”

“Expanded irradiation,” the paper declares, “could prevent dozens of deaths and thousands of illnesses every year.” The American Council on Science and Health agrees, urging that “consumers should be demanding that irradiation be added to the arsenal of techniques routinely used to safeguard our food supply.”