This next informational piece has been on my main website for at least 10 years.
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WHAT'S WRONG WITH FOOD IRRADIATION?
Irradiation damages the quality of food.
Foods that have been exposed to ionizing radiation have second-rate nutrition and "counterfeit freshness." Irradiated fats tend to become rancid. Even at low doses, some irradiated foods lose 20% of vitamins such as C, E, K, and B complex. Because irradiation breaks down the food's cell walls, accelerated vitamin losses occur during storage--up to 80%. Ironically, irradiation both creates harmful free radicals and destroys the antioxidant vitamins necessary to fight them! When
electron beams are used, trace amounts of radioactivity may be created. In Europe, food irradiation has been used to camouflage spoiled seafood. Consumers should ask, "Why is the food suddenly so dirty that it has to be irradiated?"
Irradiation produces toxic byproducts in the food.
Ionizing radiation knocks electrons out of atoms and creates free radicals. These free radicals react with food components, creating new radiolytic products, some of which are toxic (benzene, formaldehyde, lipid peroxides) and some of which may be unique to irradiated foods. No one knows the long term impact of eating unknown quantities of these damaged foods. Studies on animals fed irradiated foods have shown increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney damage. Chromosomal abnormalities occurred in children from India who were fed freshly irradiated wheat.
Irradiation using radioactive materials is an environmental hazard.
In Georgia, radioactive water escaped from an irradiation facility; the taxpayers were stuck with $47 million in cleanup costs. In New Jersey, radioactive water was poured into drains that emptied into the public sewer system. Few communities want the increased risks of hosting irradiation facilities and the periodic transport of radioactive materials to and from irradiators. Numerous worker exposures have occurred worldwide.
Irradiation is a quick fix with long-term consequences.
Irradiation doesn't kill all bacteria; those that survive are radiation-resistant. Eventually these bacteria will require higher doses of radiation. Irradiation doesn't kill the bacterium that causes botulism, or viruses. It can't be used on dairy products, a major source of food poisoning. If the labels are removed, irradiation will be used very widely because producers will 'follow the leader' and irradiate to prevent themselves from liability for food poisoning, no matter how remote the possibility. The costs, as always, will be passed on to the consumer.
Irradiation doesn't solve the problem, it just covers it up.
In a 1997 CBS nationwide poll, 77% of US consumers did not want irradiated food. This public resistance is why food trade associations have been plotting to eliminate all requirements for labeling irradiated food. Irradiation is not the only option for providing clean and sustainable food. Cleaning up filthy slaughter houses, slowing down processing lines, increasing the number of federal meat inspectors, and encouraging local and organic agriculture instead of factory farming are just a few proposals that can lead to long-term food safety solutions without the risks of irradiation.
FDA: Irradiating spinach, lettuce OK to kill germs
By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer
21 AUG 2008
Consumers worried about salad safety may soon be able to buy fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce zapped with just enough radiation to kill E. coli and a few other germs.
The Food and Drug Administration on Friday will issue a regulation allowing spinach and lettuce sellers to take that extra step, a long-awaited move amid increasing outbreaks from raw produce.
It doesn't excuse dirty produce, warned Dr. Laura Tarantino, FDA's chief of food additive safety. Farms and processors still must follow standard rules to keep the greens as clean as possible — and consumers, too, should wash the leaves before eating.
"What this does is give producers and processors one more tool in the toolbox to make these commodities safer and protect public health," Tarantino said.
Irradiated meat has been around for years, particularly ground beef that is a favorite hiding spot for E. coli. Spices also can be irradiated.
But the Grocery Manufacturers Association had petitioned the FDA to allow irradiation of fresh produce, too, starting with leafy greens that have sparked numerous recent outbreaks, including E. coli in spinach that in 2006 killed three people and sickened nearly 200.
The industry group wouldn't name salad suppliers ready to start irradiating. But it expects niche marketing to trickle out first — bags of spinach and lettuce targeted to high-risk populations such as people with weak immune systems "who right now may be afraid to eat uncooked produce," said GMA's chief science officer Robert Brackett.
"It's one big step forward in improving the safety of fresh produce," he added.
California-based produce giant Dole Food Company confirmed it is considering irradiated lettuce. "We are currently doing extensive testing with irradiation and it looks to be very promising," said spokesman William Goldfield.
A leading food safety expert said irradiation indeed can kill certain bacteria safely — but it doesn't kill viruses that also increasingly contaminate produce, and it isn't as effective as tightening steps to prevent contamination starting at the farm.
"It won't control all hazards on these products," cautioned Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
She questioned why the FDA hasn't addressed her agency's 2006 call to require growers to document such things as how they use manure and ensure the safety of irrigation water. Irrigation is one suspect in this summer's nationwide salmonella outbreak attributed first to tomatoes and then to Mexican hot peppers.
"We are not opposed to the use of irradiation," DeWaal said. But, "it's expensive and it doesn't really address the problem at the source."
Won't zapping leafy greens with X-rays or other means of radiation leave them limp? Not with today's modern techniques and the right dose, the FDA decided.
The FDA determined that irradiation can kill E. coli, salmonella and listeria, as well as lengthen shelf life, without compromising the safety, texture or nutrient value of raw spinach lettuce — the first greens studied.
E. coli actually is fairly sensitive to radiation, while salmonella and listeria require more energy. While irradiation doesn't sterilize, the FDA ruled that food companies could use a dose proven to dramatically reduce levels of those germs, a dose somewhat lower than meat requires.
But consumers shouldn't consider irradiation a panacea, either. While E. coli and salmonella tend to affect more people and make bigger headlines, consumer advocate DeWaal has found that norovirus contamination is a leading cause of produce outbreaks.
The irradiation rule goes into effect Friday. The FDA still is considering industry's petition to allow irradiation of additional produce. The grocery manufacturers group will push for other greens, such as Romaine lettuce, to be next, so that producers could irradiate bags of salad mixes.
While irradiated foods initially caused some consumer concern, FDA's Tarantino stressed that the food itself harbors no radiation.
"There is no residue, there's nothing left and certainly no radioactivity left," she said.
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.