Responding to a recent article on Science Daily about a new push to irradiate your food.
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originally reported on Leaflady.org in 1998.
More on the Problems with Food Irradiation
Food irradiation exposes food to the equivalent of 30 million chest X-rays. Irradiation creates new chemicals in foods called radiolytic products. Some of these products are known cancer-causing substances (like benzene in irradiated beef). Others are unique to the irradiation process and no one knows what effects these have on human health.
Irradiation destroys essential vitamins and nutrients that are naturally present in food. No studies have been done to show that a long-term diet of irradiated foods is safe. Safer, well-tested alternatives to irradiation exist.
Irradiation plants pose environmental threats to workers and surrounding communities. The transportation of nuclear materials to irradiation facilities also poses severe public health risks.
What's Wrong with Food Irradiation?
Irradiation damages the quality of food.
Foods that have been exposed to ionizing radiation have second-rate nutrition and "counterfeit freshness." Irradiated fats tend to become rancid. Even at low doses, some irradiated foods lose 20% of vitamins such as C, E, K, and B complex. Because irradiation breaks down the food's cell walls, accelerated vitamin losses occur during storage--up to 80%. Ironically, irradiation both creates harmful free radicals and destroys the antioxidant vitamins necessary to fight them! When electron beams are used, trace amounts of radioactivity may be created. In Europe, food irradiation has been used to camouflage spoiled seafood. Consumers should ask, "Why is the food suddenly so dirty that it has to be irradiated?"
Irradiation produces toxic byproducts in the food.
Ionizing radiation knocks electrons out of atoms and creates free radicals. These free radicals react with food components, creating new radiolytic products, some of which are toxic (benzene, formaldehyde, lipid peroxides) and some of which may be unique to irradiated foods. No one knows the long term impact of eating unknown quantities of these damaged foods. Studies on animals fed irradiated foods have shown increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney damage. Chromosomal abnormalities occurred in children from India who were fed freshly irradiated wheat.
Irradiation using radioactive materials is an environmental hazard.
In Georgia, radioactive water escaped from an irradiation facility; the taxpayers were stuck with $47 million in cleanup costs. In New Jersey, radioactive water was poured into drains that emptied into the public sewer system. Few communities want the increased risks of hosting irradiation facilities and the periodic transport of radioactive materials to and from irradiators. Numerous worker exposures have occurred worldwide.
Irradiation is a quick fix with long-term consequences.
Irradiation doesn't kill all bacteria; those that survive are radiation-resistant. Eventually these bacteria will require higher doses of radiation. Irradiation doesn't kill the bacterium that causes botulism, or viruses. It can't be used on dairy products, a major source of food poisoning. If the labels are removed, irradiation will be used very widely because producers will 'follow the leader' and irradiate to prevent themselves from liability for food poisoning, no matter how remote the possibility. The costs, as always, will be passed on to the consumer.
Irradiation doesn't solve the problem, it just covers it up.
In a 1997 CBS nationwide poll, 77% of US consumers did not want irradiated food. This public resistance is why food trade associations have been plotting to eliminate all requirements for labeling irradiated food. Irradiation is not the only option for providing clean and sustainable food. Cleaning up filthy slaughter houses, slowing down processing lines, increasing the number of federal meat inspectors, and encouraging local and organic agriculture instead of factory farming are just a few proposals that can lead to long-term food safety solutions without the risks of irradiation.
Source material originally from BioDemocracy and Organic Consumers Association