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Never Buy Meat, Potatoes or Herbs With "Treated by Radiation" on the Label

Story at-a-glance -

  • Irradiation leads to the formation of furan, which has been linked to liver toxicity, including carcinogenicity
  • Irradiated foods must be labeled with the statement "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation" and the international symbol for irradiation, the radura
  • Irradiated foods contain compounds called 2-alkylcyclobutanones (2-ACBs), which may promote tumor growth and colon cancer; they are found exclusively in irradiated foods
  • Irradiation is essentially a very effective medium for masking filthy conditions in slaughterhouses and food processing plants; You can avoid irradiation by choosing locally grown, organic foods as much as possible

Never Buy Meat, Potatoes or Herbs With "Treated by Radiation" on the Label

November 05, 2011 | 288,863 views

By Dr. Mercola

Irradiated herbs, seasonings and spices are exposed to HALF A BILLION chest X-ray's worth of gamma radiation. This information is clearly publicized by the USDA and FDA.

The FDA presently supports the use of Cobalt-60 culled from nuclear reactors on all domestically produced conventional food. 

The level of gamma-radiation used starts at 1 KiloGray -- equivalent to 16,700,000 chest x-rays -- and goes all the way up to 30KiloGray (500,000,000 chest x-rays or 10,000 times a human lethal dose).

According to Green Med Info:

“Despite the irresponsible promotion of this process as safe, food irradiation destroys much of the vitamin content of food, produces a number of toxic byproducts: formaldehyde, benzene, and formic acid, as well as unique radiolytic products, e.g. 2-alklycyclobutanoes, that have been demonstrated to be cytotoxic (damages cells), genotoxic (damages DNA), and carcinogenic (causes cancer) in test tube and animal studies.”

You're probably well aware that certain foods, like milk and juices, at your grocery store are pasteurized -- a process that uses heat to kill off bacteria from your food, and in the process destroys nutrients and denatures the food.

But you may not know that foods may also be irradiated -- a process that exposes your food to radiant energy, including gamma rays, electron beams and X-rays.

Irradiation was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1963, and today is used on more than 40 food products dispersed throughout 37 countries. If this sounds a bit alarming to you, you are not alone.

After nuclear disasters like the Fukushima meltdown in Japan, radiation poisoning to food is one of the primary health concerns. So how is it that food processors can expose your food to radiation on purpose, in the name of food safety?

Are There Health Risks to Eating Irradiated Food?

The FDA claims, "Irradiation is an important food safety tool in fighting foodborne illness," noting that the sources and amounts of radiation applied to foods are not strong enough to cause the food to become radioactive. They also state that "food irradiation does not significantly change the nutrient content, flavor, or texture of food." However, 

"The FDA presently supports and actively promotes the use of Cobalt-60 culled from Nuclear Reactors as a form of "electronic pasteurization" on all domestically produced conventional food.

The use of euphemisms like "food additive" and "pasteurization" to describe the process of blasting food with high levels of gamma-radiation cannot obviate the fact that the very same death-rays generated by thermonuclear warfare to destroy life are now being applied to food to "make it safer" …

This is not a hypochondriac's rantings, as we aren't talking here about small amounts of radiation. The level of gamma-radiation used starts at 1KiloGray (equivalent to 16,700,000 chest x-rays or 333 times a human lethal dose) and goes all the way up to 30KiloGray (500,000,000 chest x-rays or 10,000 times a human lethal dose)."

As you might suspect, exposing food to the equivalent of hundreds of millions of x-rays does not appear to be an innocuous act. Alternatively, evidence to date suggests it may be having a detrimental effect on the health of those who consume it.

A New Class of Food Contaminants

2-alkylcyclobutanones (2-ACBs) are radiolytic derivatives of triglycerides found exclusively in irradiated food. The compounds are generated proportionally to fat content of the food and the dose of absorbed radiation.

Research in animals suggests the compounds may promote tumor growth and colon cancer, and studies show 2-alkylcyclobutanones are able to cross the intestinal barrier, enter into the bloodstream, and be stored in the fat tissue of an animal. The compounds have also been shown to be cytotoxic and genotoxic, which means they may damage cells and DNA, respectively. Studies on human cells also revealed potential cancer-causing effects, with researchers concluding "this compound may be regarded as a possible risk factor for processes in colon carcinogenesis related to initiation and progression."

More Reasons to be Wary of Irradiation

Needless to say, the research to date is raising major red flags that irradiation is NOT as safe as food safety officials would have you believe. In addition to the formation of potentially toxic 2-ACBs, irradiation leads to the formation of furan from ascorbic acid, fructose, sucrose, or glucose. Furan in foods has been linked to liver toxicity, including carcinogenicity.

Another study found that cats developed "mysterious" and "remarkable" severe neurological dysfunction, including movement disorders, vision loss and paralysis, after being fed a diet of irradiated foods during gestation. When they were taken off the irradiated foods, they slowly recovered. This is a major clue that irradiated foods deserve some serious regulatory scrutiny, but unfortunately they have already infiltrated the food system. And it's not as though this concerning evidence was just recently brought to light. One paper on potential dangers, prepared for the meeting of the Joint FAO/IAEA/WHO Expert Committee on Irradiated Food, dates back to 1969. The author stated:

" … irradiation can bring about chemical transformations in food and food components resulting in the formation of potential mutagens."

Does Irradiation Actually Mask Filthy Food Production?

The FDA is quick to state that "Irradiation is not a substitute for good sanitation and process control in meat and poultry plants. It is an added layer of safety." But it is, in essence, a tool to wipe out bacteria, parasites and other potential pathogens that linger in food. This means food manufacturers have an out of sorts … After all, they're going to nuke everything later anyway, so why go to the trouble of actually growing your food in sanitary conditions to begin with?

Irradiation is essentially a very effective medium for masking filthy conditions in slaughterhouses and food processing plants. The foundational solution to this problem lies in preventing contamination at the source -- on the farm, during processing and shipping, and so on -- not in wiping out pathogens later using questionable technological interventions like radiation! There simply shouldn't be any need for irradiation, as there simply shouldn't be E. coli in your lettuce or Salmonella in your poultry in the first place.

So why is there?

Our "global food system," which encourages farming on a massive scale, poses steep problems for food safety. Not only can one batch of contaminated spinach or peppers easily sicken people across an entire country, but it's very difficult to trace a contaminated food back to its source … and even harder to then pinpoint the source of the contamination.

Public health agencies like the FDA use the term "field-to-fork continuum" to describe the path any given food takes on the way to your plate, and during any of the following steps, contamination is possible:

  • Open field production
  • Harvesting
  • Field packing
  • Greenhouse production
  • Packinghouse or field packing
  • Repacking and other distribution operations
  • Fresh-cut/value-added processing
  • Food service and retail
  • Consumer

As you can see, the more steps your food goes through before it reaches your plate, the greater your chances of contamination becomes.

But again, the solution is not to subject your foods to radiation to make them "safe" … they should be safe from the get-go, and this is one of the primary reasons why I encourage you to think long and hard about the sources of your food. If you are able to get your food directly from the field or after harvest, such as directly from a farmer or farmer's market, you knock out five potential operations that could expose your food to contamination, not to mention you'll have assurance the food has not been irradiated.

Do You Want to Avoid Irradiated Foods?

In the United States, the following foods may be irradiated:

Fresh meat and poultry (including whole or cut up birds, skinless poultry, pork chops, roasts, stew meat, liver, hamburgers, ground meat, and ground poultry)

Wheat and wheat powder

White potatoes

Many spices

Dry vegetable seasonings

Fresh shell eggs

Fresh produce

Fortunately, the FDA currently requires that irradiated foods include labeling with the statement "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation" and the international symbol for irradiation, the radura:

irradiation symbol for radiation

However, there are exceptions:

  • Irradiated meat used in another product (such as sausage) does not have to contain the radura image on the package (it does have to list irradiated meat in the ingredients, though).
  • Restaurants are not required to disclose the use of irradiated foods. So be aware that any time you eat out, you have no way of knowing if your food has been irradiated.

You can also avoid irradiation by choosing locally grown, organic foods as much as possible. Certified organic foods may not be irradiated, and foods from a small, local farm are unlikely to be either. So, as I've said many times before, supporting the small farmers in your area and, as much as possible, getting your food from these types of high-quality, small-scale local sources is one of the simplest ways to access pure, unadulterated food.

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