Take Action to Avoid Irradiated Food

| June/July 2007

Several years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a process called irradiation for protecting meats, fruits, vegetables and spices from disease-causing bacteria. Irradiation uses gamma rays, electron beams or X-rays to break up bacteria lurking in mass-produced food.

While consumers expressed little interest in purchasing irradiated foods, which must be labeled as such, the FDA recently proposed changing the rules governing how irradiated food is labeled. Currently, it must be labeled as 'Treated by/with irradiation' and with a radura symbol. Under the proposed rule, manufactures would be allowed to replace the word 'irradiation' with 'pasteurized.'

A public comment period on the changes is open until July 3, 2007. You can write the FDA about irradiated foods, or use the Organic Consumers Association's online form.

Here are answers to commonly asked questions about irradiation:
Does irradiating food make it radioactive?
No. There are three different methods used to irradiate foods, and while one of them does involve the use of nuclear radiation, none of them render the food itself radioactive. Each method uses an energy source, either gamma rays, x-rays or electron beams, to produce high frequency energy that breaks the chemical bonds in cells that are essential for cell growth and reproduction.

Gamma rays, made with radioactive cobalt or cesium, are used more often than the other methods; however, the food never comes in contact with the material, so it can't become contaminated in that way. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, too much of this radiation can make some of the atoms in the food unstable, (aka radioactive), but the FDA limits the amount of energy that can be used to prevent this from happening. Currently, the process has been approved for meat and poultry, spices, as well as certain fruits and vegetables.

Will eating these foods harm my health?
No one really knows for sure, because there haven't been any studies conducted on people who have eaten irradiated foods over a long period of time. At the very least, irradiated foods are slightly less nutritious, since the process destroys nutrients such as thiamine (an essential B vitamin) and also vitamin C. The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that this loss is insignificant, which isn't surprising since it's the same position they've taken regarding the nutritional decline of our food supply overall.

7/1/2007 12:00:00 AM

I dont think the FDA or any other government entities should be messing with our food supply by irridating our food. If the government would let the farmers grow what they want, there'd be no need to irridate the food they are allowed to grow. Its all about supply and demand, keep the supply low for profit, its always all about the money.

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