Take Action to Avoid Irradiated Food

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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:

1. 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.
Accordingto 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.

2. 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.

Among the concerns voiced by George Tritsch, research professor
emeritus at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., and
others is that bombarding foods with gamma rays creates free
radicals, the unstable molecular fragments that go about our bodies
crashing into cells as they search for an unimpaired molecule to
render them stable again. In addition, certain fats subjected to
irradiation produce potentially carcinogenic byproducts, such as
formaldehyde and benzene, although many scientists dismiss this
concern because similar compounds are created during ordinary
cooking processes.

See
Shocking News About Meat from the June/July 2007 issue of
Mother Earth News for
more on meat safety issues. And share your thoughts on these issues
by posting a comment below.

For more information on irradiation:

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368