F.D.A. Allows Irradiation of Some Produce

By | August 24, 2008

The government will allow food producers to zap fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce with enough radiation to kill micro-organisms like E. coli and salmonella that for decades have caused widespread illness among consumers.

It is the first time the Food and Drug Administration has allowed any produce to be irradiated at levels needed to protect against illness.

“This is probably one of the single most significant food safety actions done for fresh produce in many years,” said Robert Brackett, chief scientist for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which petitioned the agency in 2000 to allow manufacturers to irradiate a wide variety of processed meats, fruits and vegetables and prepared foods.

Advocates for food safety condemned the agency’s decision and asserted that irradiation could lower nutritional value, create unsafe chemicals and ruin taste. …

The government has long allowed food processors to irradiate beef, eggs, poultry, oysters and spices, but the market for irradiated foods is tiny because the government also requires that these foods be labeled as irradiated, labels that scare away most consumers.

“People think the product is radioactive,” said Harlan Clemmons, president of Sadex, a food irradiation company based in Sioux City, Iowa. – nyt

You gotta love that friendly “I’ve been irradiated” logo. It looks so green and safe. I’m not concerned about the radiation, but what about free radicals and increased risk of liver cancer?

irradiation increases the number of free radicals in the food and decreases the antioxidant vitamins that “neutralize” them.

Here are some concerns about irradiated foods:

  • FDA estimates the amount of Radiolytic Products (RP) in foods irradiated at 100 Krad at 0.3 parts per million (PPM). Source.
  • 100 Krad is the maximum permitted dose of irradiation for fruits and vegetables. Poultry may receive 3 x 100 Krad, red meat may receive 4.5 x 100 Krad, frozen meat may receive 7 x 100 Krad, spices receive 30 x 100 Krad. Therefore this calculation is a low estimate if people eat a diet containing irradiated meat and poultry as well as fruits and vegetables.
  • Assumes consumption of 7.5 ounces of irradiated foods with an average water content of 80% (fruits and vegetables range from 75-90%) with 0.3 PPM of RPs. 7.5 ounces is a large serving of fruit or one piece of fruit and one serving of poultry or meat.
  • If only 1 out of 10,000 RP molecules is a potential carcinogen, co-carcinogen or mutagen, then for every 7.5 ounce meal with 0.3 PPM of RPs, 2,560 potentially carcinogenic or mutagenic RP molecules will contact each cell in the adult liver. See the entire calculation.
  • Irradiation depletes anti-oxidant vitamins in food, which help regenerate the liver.
  • Over a long period of time, the RP assault on the liver combined with fewer anti-oxidants in the diet will create a “fertile field for the ultimate growth of cancer cells” and “almost certainly evolve” to produce liver cancer.
  • “Even at one-tenth the concentration of radiolytic products known by the FDA to be formed by irradiation at 100 Krad, irradiation of foods in the human diet represents predictably unacceptable risks to the public’s health.” – oc

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