According to US news, American government is pushing Europe to follow its lead in Irradiating food in order to fight back the E-coli outbreak.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved irradiation for many raw food, including spinach and lettuce in 2008, spices, meat, dog treats, and imported fruits and vegetables. They explain that it ‘safely killed germs and lengthened shelf life without harming texture, taste or nutrients‘.
How does it work?
Irradiation works in the same way as medical sterilisers. Food is hit with electron beams (the same that was used to run TVs), or with gamma rays or X-rays. What it does is sterilising the food, destroying any pathogenic microbes, including E-coli, salmonella, listeria, and insects…
The US government has given the go-ahead to irradiate food and together with the FDA affirm that there is no proven trace of radioactivity present in food, and there is no reason to fear it. Furthermore, there are currently debating to also use this treatment on certified organic produce.
However, considering all the precautions taken before we undergo an X-ray at the hospital, and all that it implies, irradiating food may still contain, even if unquantifiable, traces of radioactivity, and with ingestion of consequent irradiated food items (We are currently brain-washed to eat more greens, and add fruits and vegetables to our daily diet), overtime it might just build up in our body.
Irradiating food also does not kill viruses.
To date many other treatments are in place, like high-pressure or mild bleach solution (used safely for decades. Rinsing fruits and vegetables in a tap water bath can have some effect too because of the chlorine that it contains. Adding Rice vinegar or other vinegar may be as effective to kill bacteria. See article: ‘E-coli and organic farming’), and perhaps, irradiating food is not the step forward.
More (Organic Connections magazine, The Award-wining magazine of Natural Vitality)
If you’ve seen the film Food, Inc., you know that our industrial food system can be severely unsanitary. With the cramped conditions in which animals are bred, raised and slaughtered, it is no wonder that diseases such as E. coli spread so easily and end up in supermarkets and fast-food outlets. Because cattle ranches supply fertiliser to produce farms, such diseases can be spread to our fruits and vegetables as well.
Instead of solving the basic problems of sanitation in the food industry, a recent solution put into effect by food producers to prevent the spread of such bacteria is to irradiate food. According to research conducted by the Center for Food Safety (CFS), food irradiation uses high-energy gamma rays, electron beams or X-rays—all of which are millions of times more powerful than standard medical X-rays—to break apart the bacteria and insects that can hide in meat, grains and other foods.
The Center for Food Safety is a non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy membership organisation with the purpose of challenging harmful food production technologies and promoting sustainable alternatives. Food irradiation has loomed large on their radar screen of late.
“There are a number of alarming facts about food irradiation,” Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst with CFS, told Organic Connections. “One thing is that it is an extremely high energy process that does a lot of undefined things to food components. In some cases it creates unique compounds that are not found anywhere else; they’re called ‘unique radiolytic products’ (URPs). The science is still not there as to whether these compounds are hazardous to health or not, but there are a number of studies that suggest they are. These types of compounds are found especially in meats with higher fat content. Some studies suggest that the process changes the fat molecules into compounds that, in the presence of carcinogenic compounds, intensify the carcinogens’ impact. It kind of promotes the adverse impact of another known toxic compound.”
According to data on the CFS website, irradiation also causes foods to lose from 2 to 95 percent of their vitamins. For example, irradiation can destroy up to 80 percent of the vitamin A in eggs, up to 95 percent of the vitamin A in green beans, up to 50 percent of the vitamin A in broccoli, and 40 percent of the beta carotene in orange juice. Irradiation also doubles the amount of trans fats in beef.
Freese cited other examples of nutrient reduction. “Vitamin C levels in spinach are very strongly reduced when it is irradiated, even at much lower than the maximum dose permitted by the FDA. The B vitamin folate [which occurs naturally in food — folic acid is the synthetic form of folate found in supplements] is also reduced by significant amounts, and of course we all know folate is extremely important, especially for pregnant women, and is absolutely essential for developing embryos.”
Now, it is really to understand why mass-produced food has a much reduced nutrient load compared to half a century ago, adding to the constant use of the soil, depleted of the major and essential nutrients.
Dead Food, Longer Shelf Life In addition to the killing of disease-causing microorganisms, another argument in favour of food irradiation is that it reduces spoilage and increases shelf life. Spoilage is reduced because microbes of all sorts are diminished, according to data from the Centres for Disease Control website.
But in addition to the nutrients being killed off along with everything else, Freese explained another potential danger. “There are certain disease-causing microorganisms that are radiation resistant. One of them is the bacterium that causes botulism. Scientists have expressed concern that if you zap the spoilage microorganisms, which are more sensitive, then you create a clear playing field for this kind of dangerous botulism bacterium. It could potentially multiply because it has no competition. In its decision to approve spinach and lettuce irradiation, the FDA even raised this issue. I went to the sources that they cited [in their approval] and they were just not convincing; there were not good studies to rule this hazard out. I think that’s still a real issue.”
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Olivier is a Michelin trained chef, a registered Naturopath and Nutritional Therapist, embracing fully his passion for good food and healthy eating.