What is Food Irradiation?

Since I've decided to eat healthier, I read a lot of food labels. One term I come across frequently is irradiation. So, I decided to scout around and see what I could learn about this food processing procedure.

In simplified terms, irradiation is the treatment and preservation of foods with gamma rays, electron beams and x-rays. In the United States, foods processed with irradiation are labeled by the EPA with the Radura symbol or a line of text mentioning irradiation.

(Radura logo courtesy of the USDA, Wikimedia Commons)

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Irradiation :
  • kills disease-causing germs
  • kills parasites and bacteria that cause food born illnesses including E. coli and Salmonella
  • does not mean foods are clean. Irradiated foods should still be washed before eating. They may get dirty during transportation to the grocery store.
  • increases the shelf of fresh produce, inhibits mold growth and reduces sprouting
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Irradiation:
  • does not make food radioactive or change the nutritional value of food
  • does not eliminate all food dangers.
  • makes old produce appear "fresh" and eliminates the "rancid" odor of decomposing produce
  • is not applied to organic foods
So, how do you feel about eating food treated with irradiation? I can't imagine the nutritional value of irradiated foods isn't diminished. I've love to read some credible, not government-based, research about the nutrition of irradiated foods. Please share your comments and links to additional resources below. Thank you!

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living

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18 comments:

  1. The more I know about food, the less I want to eat :(

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    1. I hear you! Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss. Then I see how sick everyone is getting and how prevalent cancer is and wonder if our food supply is to blame. I wish I could go back to Little House on the Prairie times! Well, with a bag full of antibiotics and ibuprofen! :) ~Angela

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  2. Very nice informative post. Thanks for sharing and stopping by Dogs Rule Cats Drool and leaving a comment, appreciate it.

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  3. I used to have tons of information on this topic...a whole box full, but it was over a decade ago and I got tired of dragging it all around with me every time I moved. Was doing research on an environmental issue (the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer) and irradiation blipped on my radar because some of the leftover waste from that process was ending up in landfills...which caused me to look into it more. No way will I eat irradiated food. The independent reports which came my way definitely made that an easy decision for me. Excellent post! If I come across any interesting material on this, I will send it along to you.

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    1. Wow, thanks for the information. I'm glad to hear another personal opinion from someone who has done so much research. Why can't the government just leave our food alone? (I know, I know...we'll all starve if they don't treat the crops...)

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  4. The healthful benefits of food would probably remain intact. Radiation doesn't normally destroy vitamins and minerals. I still wouldn't want to eat it, though. It seems like if it's hiding the smell of rancid food then I would just be eating rancid food. Gross!

    Good post though. Good luck with the challenge!

    Dianna Fielding
    Sociologyfornerds.com

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    1. Hi Dianna, Thanks for stopping by. The part about masking the freshness of food bothers me too! What is the government thinking? ~Angela

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  5. My water is well water, which I have tested {i live in a rural area}no added chemicals or plastic bottles. And my husband and I are growing and canning more and more of our own veggies every year {organic}. Not only for the fresh lack of chemicals, or what ever else the government is doing to our food stuffs, but for the economy of it. It's good financial sense to have our own means of feeding ourselves. Irradiation is just scary to me, avoiding it is best. As if we don't have enough problems with all the antibiotics they're putting in all the animals we eat. I don't think it's wrong to question the government on these issues.

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    1. Good for you and your family! I wish I had more time to garden, can and freeze produce. I do have a small garden! But, there's always the want for more. LOL! :) ~Angela

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  6. It's scary what they do to food for sure. I'm doing more gardening each year. The plan is to turn our whole backyard into a food producing wonderland.

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    1. That sounds fabulous, Jaipi! I think one of my "If I win the lottery" dreams is to buy an acreage and have the self-sustainable farm located behind the animal rescue barn. :) ~ Angela, Whole Foods Living, http://www.wholefoodsliving.blogspot.com/

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  7. Hi Angela. Thank you for sharing this information about irradiation. It is important for all of us to be as informed as possible about anything that affects our food and our health.

    Susanne
    PUTTING WORDS DOWN ON PAPER

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    1. You're welcome! It's not a *fun* topic, but it's definitely something to think about.

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  8. I have no problem eating irradiated foods, and have done so. That said, for full disclosure I work with electron beam systems that sterilize medical products and devices. In the past I managed deployment of these same systems for food irradiation and disinfestation applications. I managed building the plant in Hawaii for fruit fly disinfestation in 2000 that is still in use today. My take on food irradiation is that it is just another tool to insure food safety. Having grown up around my father's restaurants I also strongly believe proper storage and food handling are paramount. I do not go out of my way to purchase irradiated foods, but it would not turn me away if available. Most spices are treated by irradiation.

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    1. Hi Jim, Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I find the food processing industry fascinating -- and your inside perspective a breath of fresh air. ~Angela

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  9. According to reputable Internet sources children fed irradiated wheat developed chromosomal abnormalities. In addition, a chemical ACB-2 has been identified in irradiated food products that causes colon cancer tumors to develop. Irradiated food creates radiolytic byproducts-benzene & formaldehye and in mice, irradiated food has caused still births, birth defects, reproductive failure, tumors, liver & kidney damage. In addition, half of the FDA studies showed that irradiation was harmful. And, as if this plethora of evidence didn't convince me, after experiencing medically documented radiation poisoning from bone that was irradiated with Cobalt 60 irradiation, just like the food would be treated with, and it taking removal of the irradiated bone and 3 more sugeries to remove bone tumors and dead tissue, I'm convinced that irradiation is extremely harmful to our nation's health, particularly pregnant women, those who already have cancer and the elderly.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment! Very interesting! ~Angela

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