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FDA Allows Irradiation of Produce

spinach, lettuceThe U.S. government will allow food producers to irradiate fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce in order to kill organisms like E. coli and salmonella. It is the first time that the FDA has allowed any produce to be irradiated at these levels.

Advocates for food safety condemned the agency’s decision, and asserted that irradiation lowers nutritional value, creates unsafe chemicals and ruins flavor.

The government already allows food processors to irradiate beef, eggs, poultry, oysters and spices, but the market for irradiated foods is small because the government also requires that these foods be labeled as irradiated, and these labels scare away most consumers. The FDA is considering a proposal to weaken or change the labeling requirement.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Irradiating fresh produce is a last-ditch attempt by the FDA to make their supervision and certification of the crumbling food system appear safe. This way, agribusiness can continue to grow and process spinach and lettuce in the filthiest conditions imaginable, and it will still be perfectly safe for you to eat it, thanks to the varying doses of radiation.

What Exactly is Irradiation? 

According to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA):

“Bombardment of a food by ionizing radiation: “gamma rays” from nuclear material, x-rays or high-speed electrons from electronic guns. They are used to kill bacteria in the food. Electrons are knocked off molecules and ricochet around in the food.

They break up cell walls, slice and dice chromosomes, kill enzymes, and create free radicals (oxygen atoms missing an electron).

These free radicals recombine to form stable compounds, or continue their destructive path.

Some of the compounds created are known to be cancer-causing (formaldehyde, benzene, lipid peroxides). Others have never been seen or studied before.”

Still, the FDA maintains that irradiated foods are no different from non-irradiated foods (which is not surprising considering they also consider meat from cloned animals the same as non-cloned meat). Yet, right on their own Web site, they say, “Irradiation can produce changes in food, similar to changes caused by cooking, but in smaller amounts.”

Well, there are vast differences between a cooked food and a raw one, and the FDA seems to be oblivious to these. They have also done an excellent job of ignoring the alarming data on food irradiation that has spanned over four decades.

The following is a sampling of research -- appearing in scientific journals and other publications -- that raise questions about the FDA's assertions that people who eat irradiated food have nothing to worry about.

• An FDA report from1968 found significant adverse effects produced in animals fed irradiated food, including:

o A decrease of 20.7 percent in surviving weaned rats
o A 32.3 percent decrease in surviving progeny of dogs
o Dogs weighing 11.3 percent less than animals on the control diets
o Carcinomas of the pituitary gland, a particularly disturbing finding since this is an extremely rare type of malignant tumor

• A 1959 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that “a significant number of rats consuming irradiated beef died from internal hemorrhage within 46 days.”

• In 1981, a study in Mutation Research found that “freshly irradiated diets produced elevated levels of early deaths in [mice fetuses]... The increase in early deaths would suggest that the diet when irradiated has some mutagenic potential."

• In 1969, a study in Radiation Research found “considerable amounts of radioactivity were present in the liver, kidney, stomach, gastrointestinal tract, and blood serum of rats fed irradiated sucrose solutions. Radioactivity was present in urine and feces samples.”

• In 2000, a study in Food Irradiation concluded that "an increase in concentration of a mutagen in food by irradiation will increase the incidence of cancer. It will take four to six decades to demonstrate a statistically significant increase in cancer due to mutagens introduced into food by irradiation. When food irradiation is finally prohibited, several decades worth of people with increased cancer incidence will be in the pipeline."

Not to mention that irradiation also destroys vitamins, disrupts the chemical composition of food, and, as I said earlier, masks and encourages filthy conditions in food-processing plants.

Do You Want Your Produce “Pasteurized”?

Even if you ignore the reproductive dysfunction, chromosomal abnormalities, liver damage, and strange gene-damaging chemicals linked to irradiation, it still acts as a type of pasteurization.

And pasteurization is the primary reason why pasteurized milk is not good for the majority of people. Raw, unpasteurized milk, meanwhile, is an entirely different, typically health-promoting food. So the idea of pasteurizing fresh vegetables, on top of the beef, eggs, chicken, spices and other foods that are currently irradiated, is absurd.

The solution to creating healthier, safer foods lies in cleaning up the growing conditions and processing plants, and most certainly in returning farming to a small-scale basis. The critics in the New York Times article were so right in speaking out.

“The agency is choosing to have a high-tech expensive solution to a problem that needs a more thorough approach and one that really starts on the farm,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

And according to Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, irradiation is “a total cop-out.”

“They [The FDA] don’t have the resources, the authority or the political will to really protect consumers from unsafe food,” she said.

And I think she really hit the nail on the head with that one. You simply cannot trust the FDA to keep your food safe or nutritious.

Would you believe that the FDA based its approval of irradiation to treat meat products on only seven animal studies out of the 441 submitted? Well, it’s true. And according to OCA, those seven either showed some health effects, or had obvious scientific flaws like using a dose of radiation much lower than the FDA’s permitted maximum.

And as for their approval of irradiation of produce, that wasn’t based on any studies at all!

“Irradiation for fruits and vegetables was based on a theoretical calculation of the danger of the new chemicals that were created, not on animal studies,” OCA says.

Eating Healthy in an Unhealthy World

Our food is currently under assault from a wide variety of enemies. Pesticides, pollution, irradiation, pasteurization, and genetic modification all come to mind. But there are still some ways to minimize these risks and get your food as healthy, and as natural, as possible in today’s modern world:

• The FDA currently requires that irradiated foods include labeling with either the statement "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation" and the international symbol for irradiation, the radura. That might change in the future, but for now avoid all foods that contain these labels.

• Choose organic foods. Certified organic foods may not be irradiated (and they also may not contain genetically modified ingredients or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers).

Buy foods locally. Get to know a farmer near you (or join a food coop with access to one). This way, you’ll know how your food is grown and whether or not it’s irradiated.

• Grow your own food. If you have the space, a small garden can produce plenty of produce for your family.

+ Sources and References