Food irradiation can eliminate harmful substances that pose us health risks. While eliminating dangerous bacteria sounds like a step in the right direction, the research behind food irradiation is highly questionable. Irradiation is a process in which food is exposed to high doses of gamma rays, X-rays or electron beams radiation to kill bacteria in food. To no surprise, irradiation kills both good and bad bacteria, yet has no effect on viruses – not to mention that the long-term health consequences of eating irradiated food are still unknown.
Irradiation also creates a complex series of reactions that alter the molecular structure of food and create byproducts called 2-ACBs, which do not occur naturally in any food and have been linked to tumor growth in lab rats. Animals fed irradiated foods have died prematurely and suffered mutations, stillbirths, organ damage and nutritional deficiencies.
Goodbye vitamins. Irradiation destroys essential vitamins, including vitamin A, thiamin, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, C, E, and K – 20 to 80 percent loss of any of these vitamins is not uncommon. Irradiation also destroys vitamins, nutrients and essential fatty acids, including up to half of the beta carotene found naturally in orange juice. In some foods, irradiation can intensify the vitamin and nutrient loss caused by cooking, leading to “empty calorie” food.
Irradiation can change the flavor, odor, texture and color of food. In a study conducted by Consumer Reports, professional taste testers noticed that most samples of cooked irradiated beef and chicken had a slight but distinct off-taste and smell; similar to that of burned hair. Food processing companies aren’t irradiating just meat, fruit, and vegetables—all of which suffer nutrient destruction. Spices such as garlic powder and paprika are also being irradiated, and can be added to processed foods without being labeled.
What is the point of irradiation? It does nothing to prevent hepatitis, E. coli and other harmful bacteria from winding up in food supplies on grocery shelves. Since irradiation may not eliminate all bacteria from foods, and since foods can be contaminated after having been irradiated, the process does not totally eliminate the possibility of food borne illness. That is why the USDA recommends the same food-handling practices for irradiated foods as for non-irradiated foods.
Currently, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved irradiation of foods including meat and poultry, eggs, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and flour. However, being aware of the dangers of food irradiation will help you avoid foods that can be potentially harmful to your body. Irradiated foods are required to be labeled with a radura symbol.
How unappetizing is that? Remember to always double check the food you buy, question its origins and read the labels carefully. Avoid buying irradiated foods with the radura symbol. Grow your own produce to avoid this issue in general. Tell your friends and family about that irradiated foods and stay healthy.
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