Which Foods Are Irradiated and Sterilized For Claims of Safety?
The primary claim by the food industry: As the world's population climbs, the sustainable production and distribution of food is balanced against the need to ensure its chemical and microbiological safety. Although science has been unable to establish the long-term safety of food irradiation and the lasting health effects if any, almost every food category can now be legally irradiated by government regulators, even at the expense of nutritional content or our health.
By 2030, food demand is expected to increase by 50 percent. Global food transport has been increasing at an exponential rate since the 1960s -- faster than food production itself.
What can be done? People will no longer be able to safely rely on the food industry to feed themselves. Food scientists are voicing from their petrified little minds that as the system grows, so will the need to pressure regulation and surveillance organizations to track contaminants and prevent deadly outbreaks. It seems that every outbreak initiates government action to promote the agenda of seizing more control over the food supply through expanded "food safety" regulations.
Senior food scientist Toby MacDonald says the only way to protect the population is through current and modified sterilization techniques that will make food safe for all. "Current and modified practices including irradiation and pasteurization are extremely effective in reducing harmful bacteria and pathogens in the food supply," he proclaimed. MacDonald says that as food demand reaches its climax, proper sterilization will be necessary at all levels. "An increase of 50 percent in food demand by 2030 will require more funding into food monitoring infrastructures so that all food with the potential to produce outbreaks can be properly sterilized to prevent those outbreaks," he added.
What's Wrong With Irradiated Foods?
Irradiated foods are exposed to high level radiation for the purpose of sterilizing it. There is an abundance of convincing evidence in the refereed scientific literature that the condensation products of the free radicals formed during irradiation produce statistically significant increases in carcinogenesis, mutagenesis and cardiovascular disease in animals and man. This is in addition to the destruction of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
2-alkylcyclobutanones (2-ACBs) are radiolytic derivatives of triglycerides found exclusively in irradiated food. The compounds are generated proportionally to fat content of the food and the dose of absorbed radiation.
In essence, most foods available at major grocery chains can be potentially irradiated since the list is inclusive of all food categories.
The population cannot protect itself from the carcinogenic and other harmful insults to the body placed into the food supplies. There is absolutely no tangible benefit to be traded for the possible increased incidence of malignant disease one to three decades in the future.
The United States currently has the highest rate of food irradiation in the world. Canadian neighbours approve only onions, potatoes, wheat, flour, whole wheat flour, and whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasonings for irradiation and sale in Canada. Unfortunately for Canadians, this means they too cannot benefit from the high antioxidant values of spices since the majority would be irradiated.
Irradiation works by splitting chemical bonds in molecules with high energy beams to form ions and free radicals. When sufficient critical bonds are split in organisms contaminating a food, the organism is killed. Comparable bonds are split in the food. Ions are stable; free radicals contain an unpaired electron and are inherently unstable and therefore reactive. How long free radicals remain in food treated with a given dose of radiation or the reaction products formed in a given food cannot be calculated but must be tested experimentally for each food. Different doses of radiation will produce different amounts and kinds of products.
The kinds of bonds split in a given molecule are governed by statistical considerations. Thus, while most molecules of a given fatty acid, for example, may be split in a certain manner, other molecules of the same fatty acid will be split differently. A free radical can either combine with another free radical to form a stable compound, or it can initiate a [chemical] chain reaction by reacting with a stable molecule to form another free radical, et cetera, until the chain is terminated by the reaction of two free radicals to form a stable compound. These reactions continue long after the irradiation procedure.
There are a vast number of new molecules that can be formed from irradiation of a single molecular species, to say nothing of a complicated mixture such as food. Furthermore, the final number and types of new molecules formed will depend on the other molecules present in the sample. Thus, free radicals originating from fats could form new compounds with proteins, nucleic acids [DNA], and so forth.
Irradiation Damages the Quality of Food
The free radicals caused by irradiation kill some bacteria, but they also bounce around in the food, damage vitamins and enzymes, and combine with existing chemicals (like pesticides) in the food to form new chemicals, called unique radiolytic products (URPs).
Some of these URPs are known toxins (benzene, formaldehyde, lipid peroxides) and some are unique to irradiated foods. Scientists have not studied the long-term effect of these new chemicals in our diet. Therefore, we cannot assume they are safe.
Irradiated foods can lose 5%-80% of many vitamins (A, C, E, K and B complex). The amount of loss depends on the dose of irradiation and the length of storage time.
Most of the food in the American diet is already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for irradiation: beef, pork, lamb, poultry, wheat, wheat flour, vegetables, fruits, shell eggs, seeds for sprouting, spices, herb teas. (Dairy is already pasteurized).
Irradiation damages the natural digestive enzymes found in raw foods. This means the body has to work harder to digest them.
If unlabeled, raw foods that have been irradiated look like fresh foods, but nutritionally they are like cooked foods, with decreased vitamins and enzymes. The FDA allows these foods to be labeled "fresh."
Science has not proved that a long-term diet of irradiated foods is safe for human health.
Today, governments around the world have extrapolated preliminary data on irradiation and food safety and have attempted to apply these short-term benefits to long-term food applications. This sets a dangerous precedent which may alter food chemistry and affect human health known to cause neurological damage.
The longest human feeding study was 15 weeks. No one knows the long-term effects of a life-long diet that includes foods which will be frequently irradiated, such as meat, chicken, vegetables, fruits, salads, sprouts and juices.
There are no studies on the effects of feeding babies or children diets containing irradiated foods, except a very small and controversial study from India that showed health effects.
Studies on animals fed irradiated foods have shown increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney damage. Some possible causes are: irradiation-induced vitamin deficiencies, the inactivity of enzymes in the food, DNA damage, and toxic radiolytic products in the food.
The FDA based its approval of irradiation for poultry on only 5 of 441 animal-feeding studies. Marcia van Gemert, Ph.D., the toxicologist who chaired the FDA committee that approved irradiation, later said, "These studies reviewed in the 1982 literature from the FDA were not adequate by 1982 standards, and are even less accurate by 1993 standards to evaluate the safety of any product, especially a food product such as irradiated food." The 5 studies are not a good basis for approval of irradiation for humans, because they showed health effects on the animals or were conducted using irradiation at lower energies than those the FDA eventually approved.
The FDA based its approval of irradiation for fruits and vegetables on a theoretical calculation of the amount of URPs in the diet from one 7.5 oz. serving/day of irradiated food. Considering the different kinds of foods approved for irradiation, this quantity is too small and the calculation is irrelevant.
Even with current labeling requirements, people cannot avoid eating irradiated food. That means there is no control group, and epidemiologists will never be able to determine if irradiated food has any health effects.
Science is always changing. The science of today is not the science of tomorrow. The science we have today is not adequate to prove the long-term safety of food irradiation.
Why Fresh, Living Produce Helps Prevent Sickness
The USDA has zero recognition of the difference between living produce and dead produce. To uneducated government bureaucrats, pasteurized or irradiated vegetable juice is identical to fresh, raw, living vegetable juice. They believe this because they've never been taught about the phytonutrients, digestive enzymes and life force properties that are found in fresh foods, but that are destroyed through heat or irradiation.
Even a simple leaf of spinach contains hundreds of natural medicines -- phytonutrients that help prevent cancer, eye diseases, nervous system disorders, heart disease and much more. Every living vegetable is a powerhouse of disease-fighting medicine: Broccoli prevents cancer, beet greens cleanse the liver, cilantro removes heavy metals, celery prevents cancer, berries prevent heart disease and dark leafy greens help prevent over a dozen serious health conditions while boosting immune function and helping prevent other infections. But when you subject these fruits and vegetables to enough radiation to kill 99.9% of the pathogens that may be hitching a ride, you also destroy many of the phytonutrients responsible for these tremendous health benefits.
This means that while irradiating food may decrease outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, it will have the unintended consequence of increasing the number of people who get sick from other infections (and chronic diseases) due to the fact that their source of natural medicine has been destroyed.
If the irradiation of fresh produce goes into effect, rates of infection among consumers will inevitablly increase, not decrease, due to the removal of immune-boosting natural medicine from the food supply. Consumers will also experience higher rates of cancer, heart disease, dementia, eye disorders, diabetes and even obesity. By destroying these thousands of healing phytonutrients, irradiation will leave many consumers defenseless against modern society's many health challenges.
The source of the irradiation is not listed on the label. The original sponsor of food irradiation in the US was the Department of Energy, which wanted to create a favorable image of nuclear power as well as dispose of radioactive waste. These goals have not changed. Cobalt-60, which is used for irradiation, must be manufaactured in a nuclear reactor.
Many foods cannot be irradiated using electron beams. E-beams only penetrate 1-1.5 inches on each side, and are suitable only for flat, evenly sized foods like patties. Large fruits, foods in boxes, and irregularly shaped foods must be irradiated using x-rays or gamma rays from nuclear materials.
Countries that lack a cheap and reliable source of electricity for e-beams use nuclear materials. Opening U.S. markets to irradiated food encourages the spread of nuclear irradiation worldwide.
Irradiation Doesn't Provide Clean Food
Because irradiation doesn't kill all the bacteria in a food, the ones that survive are by definition radiation-resistant. These bacteria will multiply and eventually work their way back to the 'animal factories'. Soon thereafter, the bacteria that contaminate the meat will no longer be killed by currently approved doses of irradiation. The technology will no longer be usable, while stronger bacteria contaminate our food supply.
People may become more careless about sanitation if irradiation is widely used. Irradiation doesn't kill all the bacteria in a food. In a few hours at room temperature, the bacteria remaining in meat or poultry after irradiation can multiply to the level existing before irradiation.
Some bacteria, like the one that causes botulism, as well as viruses and prions (which are believed to cause Mad Cow Disease) are not killed by current doses of irradiation.
Irradiation encourages food producers to cut corners on sanitation, because they can 'clean up' the food just before it is shipped.
What is ironic about regulators that approve food irradiation, is that they believe through their flawed science that irradiated foods are safe, nutritious and wholesome.
More Reasons to be Wary of Irradiation
Needless to say, the research to date is raising major red flags that irradiation is NOT as safe as food safety officials would have you believe. In addition to the formation of potentially toxic 2-ACBs, irradiation leads to the formation of furan from ascorbic acid, fructose, sucrose, or glucose. Furan in foods has been linked to liver toxicity, including carcinogenicity.
Another study found that cats developed "mysterious" and "remarkable" severe neurological dysfunction, including movement disorders, vision loss and paralysis, after being fed a diet of irradiated foods during gestation. When they were taken off the irradiated foods, they slowly recovered. This is a major clue that irradiated foods deserve some serious regulatory scrutiny, but unfortunately they have already infiltrated the food system. And it's not as though this concerning evidence was just recently brought to light. One paper on potential dangers, prepared for the meeting of the Joint FAO/IAEA/WHO Expert Committee on Irradiated Food, dates back to 1969. The author stated:
"...irradiation can bring about chemical transformations in food and food components resulting in the formation of potential mutagens."
One can reasonably conclude that if all food is sterilized by 2030, then we will have another epidemic on our hands. Millions will become sick and die from nutritionally deficient foods. Perhaps this has been the plan all along. So we have one option--we must reject our current patterns of food consumerism. We need sustainable communities with independent food sources free from big argiculture and the food industry. It is the only way to guarantee a food supply free of toxins, genetically modified organisms, pasteurization and irradation. It will be the only way to maintain food sources that nourish our bodies and provide health rather than disease.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.