Irradiated Foods Cause
Severe Neurological Damage
One of the first approved uses of food irradiation was to destroy
insects, bacteria and other organisms in dried herbs, spices and
vegetable seasonings. It was considered an effective method of preventing
spoilage and preserving flavors, nutrients and shelf life. Irradiation
can also prevent food-borne illnesses caused by organisms such as
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
In a study just published in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison
(UW-Madison) report on cats developing severe neurological symptoms
due to a degradation of myelin, the fatty insulator of nerve fibers
called axons. Because myelin facilitates the conduction of nerve
signals, when it is lost or damaged there can be impairment of sensation,
movement, thinking and other functions, depending on what particular
nerves are affected. This loss of myelin is found in several disorders
of the central nervous system in humans -- the best known being
multiple sclerosis (MS).
So what caused the cats to develop neurological problems? Although
the researchers' statement to the media practically buries the fact,
a close read shows the animals were fine until fed irradiated
food. What's more, when they were taken off the irradiated
diet, the animals' nervous systems began healing.
The new study took place when the researchers were faced with reports
of a mysterious illness in pregnant cats. A commercial company had
been testing various diets on the animals to see how the food impacted
growth and development in the felines. The food used, it turns out,
had been irradiated. Irradiation, which is approved by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for many human as well as animal
foods, involves exposing foods briefly to a radiant energy source
such as gamma rays or electron beams in order to kill bacteria.
Some of the cats eating the irradiated cat food exhibited very severe
neurological symptoms, including movement disorders, vision loss
and even paralysis. "After being on the diet for three to four months,
the pregnant cats started to develop progressive neurological disease,"
said Ian Duncan, a professor of medical sciences at the UW-Madison
School of Veterinary Medicine and an authority on demyelinating
diseases, in a statement to the media.
The sick cats were shown to have widely distributed the very severe
demyelization of the central nervous system. Their neurological
symptoms were very much like those seen in people with MS and other
demyelization disorders. When the felines were taken off the irradiated
foods, they began to recover slowly. However, according to Dr.
Duncan, the restored myelin sheaths were no longer as thick as normal
The finding is important, the scientists concluded in their study,
because it shows the central nervous system retains the ability
to reestablish myelin -- so strategies that could be developed to
spur the growth of new myelin sheaths anywhere nerves themselves
are preserved could be a possible therapy for treating a host of
severe neurological diseases in humans. "The key thing is that it
absolutely confirms the notion that remyelinating strategies are
clinically important," Duncan stated.
Curiously, although the scientists' related their findings to possible
human applications, they were quick to dismiss a possible connection
between people, irradiated food and health risk. "We think it is
extremely unlikely that (irradiated food) could become a human health
problem," Duncan explained in the media statement. "We think it
is species specific."
However, not everyone agrees irradiated food is fine for humans
or animals. According to the Center for Food Safety, studies have
shown irradiation produces volatile toxic chemicals such as benzene
and toluene, which are known or suspected to cause cancer and birth
defects. A 2001 study found an association between colon tumors
and 2-alkylcyclobutanones (2-ACB's), a new chemical compound detected
only in foods that have been irradiated.