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. They claim it makes the food “safer”.
Food irradiation (the application of ionizing radiation to food) is a technology that improves the safety and extends the shelf life of foods by reducing or eliminating microorganisms and insects. Like pasteurizing milk and canning fruits and vegetables, irradiation can make food safer for the consumer.
How Is Food Irradiated?
There are three sources of radiation approved for use on foods.
- Gamma rays are emitted from radioactive forms of the element cobalt (Cobalt 60) or of the element cesium (Cesium 137).
Gamma radiation is used routinely to sterilize medical, dental and household products and is also used for the radiation treatment of cancer.
- X-rays are produced by reflecting a high-energy stream of electrons off a target substance (usually one of the heavy metals) into food. X-rays are also widely used in medicine and industry to produce images of internal structures.
- Electron beam (or e-beam) is similar to X-rays and is a stream of high-energy electrons propelled from an electron accelerator
Why Irradiate Food?
Irradiation can serve many purposes.
- Prevention of Foodborne Illness – irradiation can be used to effectively eliminate organisms that cause foodborne illness, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli).
- Preservation – irradiation can be used to destroy or inactivate organisms that cause spoilage and decomposition and extend the shelf life of foods.
- Control of Insects – irradiation can be used to destroy insects in or on tropical fruits imported into the United States. Irradiation also decreases the need for other pest-control practices that may harm the fruit.
- Delay of Sprouting and Ripening – irradiation can be used to inhibit sprouting (e.g., potatoes) and delay ripening of fruit to increase longevity.
- Sterilization – irradiation can be used to sterilize foods, which can then be stored for years without refrigeration. Sterilized foods are useful in hospitals for patients with severely impaired immune systems, such as patients with AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy. Foods that are sterilized by irradiation are exposed to substantially higher levels of treatment than those approved for general use.
What Foods Have Been Approved for Irradiation?
FDA has approved a variety of foods for irradiation in the United States including:
- Beef and Pork
- Crustaceans (e.g., lobster, shrimp, and crab)
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
- Lettuce and Spinach
- Molluscan Shellfish (e.g., oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops)
- Seeds for Sprouting (e.g., for alfalfa sprouts)
- Shell Eggs
- Spices and Seasonings
Inconceivably High Amounts of Radiation Used To “Pasteurize” Your Food
The level of gamma radiation used starts at 1 kiloGray (equivalent to 2,500,000 chest x-rays (40 millirems each) or 166 times a human lethal dose (5 Grays)) and goes all the way up to 30 kiloGray (75,000,000 chest x-rays or 4,980 times a human lethal dose). The following table is a list of foods that are increasingly being “nuked” for your protection.
STATUS OF FOOD IRRADIATION REGULATIONS IN THE US
|Food Item||Approved Use||Max Dose (kGray)||Min Dose (kGray)||Date of Approval|
|Vegetable Seasonings (dried)||Decontamination||30||–||4-18-86|
|Poultry (fresh or frozen)||Decontamination||3||–||9-21-92|
|Poultry meat (mechanically separated)||Decontamination||3||–||9-21-92|
|Red meat (fresh)||Decontamination||4.5||–||12-2-97|
|Red meat (frozen)||Decontamination||7||–||12-2-97|
How Will I Know if My Food Has Been Irradiated?
FDA requires that irradiated foods bear the international symbol for irradiation. Look for the Radura symbol along with the statement “Treated with radiation” or “Treated by irradiation” on the food label. Bulk foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are required to be individually labeled or to have a label next to the sale container. FDA does not require that individual ingredients in multi-ingredient foods (e.g., spices) be labeled.
It is important to remember that irradiation is not a replacement for proper food-handling practices by producers, processors and consumers. Irradiated foods need to be stored, handled and cooked in the same way as non-irradiated foods, because they could still become contaminated with disease-causing organisms after irradiation if the rules of basic food safety are not followed.