Also known as "cold pasteurization," food irradiation is a method of food preservation where foods are treated with ionizing radiation. The process exposes foods to doses of radiation in the form of gamma rays, X-rays, or electron beams. Irradiation can kill bacteria in food (both dangerous and healthy), but it has no effect on viruses or agents that cause infectious diseases.
There are two methods used to irradiate foods:
- High energy electron beams
- Gamma rays from cobalt 60, cesium 137, and X-rays
Gamma rays can penetrate foods to a greater depth than electron beams. Electron beams are not produced from radioactive sources, but they do produce ionizing changes in food, just as other forms of irradiation do.
Microwaving Food - Another Form Of Food Irradiation
Microwaving food is another form of food irradiation (similar to irradiating food, but using a different wavelength). Read about the various studies that reveal not only does microwaving food destroy important nutrients, as well as render others less bioavailable, but they have been conclusively proven to have a detrimental impact on the blood and various systems of the human body.
Why Irradiate Food?
Dr. Gayle Eversole
Irradiating food reduces the number of microorganisms in foods that can cause disease by killing potentially harmful bacteria and parasites.
Reports of food-borne illnesses such as salmonella, clostridium botulinum, staphylococcus aureus, campylobacter jejuni, cyclospora, toxoplasma gondii, and E. coli have caused public health experts and government officials to look for ways to prevent and control the contamination of food. But while irradiation can kill, inactivate, or substantially reduce the number of potentially dangerous organisms in foods, it will not eradicate all dangerous pathogens. It also destroys healthy nutrients and beneficial bacteria, and can be harmful to our health.
At this time, the FDA has approved the use of irradiation on many popular food items, such as beef, pork, lamb, poultry, wheat, wheat flour, vegetables, fruits, seeds for sprouting, spices, and herb teas. It has especially taken a foothold among spices and imported fruits. Dairy is not included as it is already pasteurized (unless purchased as raw dairy). Many more food items are under review to be added to the list. Manufacturers such as Omaha steaks use irradiation as a selling point for their beef to prevent risk of pathogenic E. coli or salmonella transmission.
In general, manufacturers have been slow to adopt irradiated foods. There is insufficient information on how it affects food, and on the health and safety of its use. Not all food authorities support irradiation, and even those in favor recognize that there is no substitute for good food sanitation habits. Irradiation can only help control the contamination once it occurs, but it does not address the important issue of prevention.
It is interesting to note that when microorganisms are exposed to irradiated foods and nutrients, they avoid ingesting them.
Why We Should Avoid Irradiated Foods
Learn more about the 5 very important reasons to avoid irradiated foods:
How to Identify Irradiated Foods
The FDA requires irradiated foods to include an international symbol called the "radura" - a picture which resembles a leafy plant in a circle. But as usual, there is a labeling loophole. Manufacturers are not required to print ANY irradiation disclosure or symbol on their food labels if the product contains at least ONE item that has not been irradiated. So, for example, if a product contains 5 ingredients, 4 which are irradiated and 1 which is not, the manufacturer no longer has to display the irradiation symbol. This makes the symbol close to worthless.
Even though consumers have the right to be able to easily determine which foods have been irradiated so that they can be avoided, the FDA has severely impaired consumers' ability to identify irradiated foods on store shelves. The same issue exists with regard to GMOs in our food chain.
By not conducting any long-term studies to determine how safe or dangerous irradiated foods are, the government is showing a complete lack of responsibility when it comes to the subject of public health. Undermining the public's ability to make an informed decision on irradiated foods turns us into a walking chemistry experiment. Until such a time as long-term health studies exist, the very least the government can and should do is enforce labeling laws to require any irradiated food to be clearly identifiable.
Buying fresh, organic produce (local if possible) is the best approach to minimizing or eliminating irradiated foods from your diet. Eggs, dairy, and meat from local farms and farmers markets is also a great choice.
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- Irradiated foods
- Microwaves - why you should ditch them
- The Dirty Dozen: What they are & why you should avoid them
- Understanding GMOs
- What are processed & refined foods
- Health dangers of foods sprayed with pesticides
- Why today's soy is NOT a healthy food
- Why stress is a silent killer
- Get off the diet merry-go-round
- Is your diet healthy? See how it stacks up
- Raising children naturally
- Healthy food choices for pets