spinachRecently the FDA ruled to allow producers of conventionally grown spinach and lettuce to irradiate the leafy vegetables to apparently 'make them safe'.

Will this help or is it just a ploy?

First, let's talk about why the FDA wants to irradiate in the first place.

You may remember a warning and recall of supposedly tainted spinach in the recent past. The farming practices were to blame for the outbreak, although instead of encouraging or mandating better practices, the FDA believes that irradiating food is a better way to eliminate microorganisms like e.coli.

Why irradiate spinach and lettuce instead of making sure it's clean before being sent to stores? I'm not sure but it sounds much easier to do that then develop an entire additional process (and industry) just to try and keep food safe.

But therein lies the reason for irradiation. An entire process just to zap dirt on spinach and lettuce means more new business for companies that irradiate. And the trail doesn't end there. The nuclear industry is looking for a safe way to dispose of the leftover radioactive cesium from power plants and disposing of it by irradiating food.

Safe? Hardly. American vegetable consumers are being used to dispose nuclear waste right under their noses... and they're paying for it, literally.

This is a similar situation to the FDA's recent mandate that raw almonds be pasteurized because a handful of people (out of over 300 million Americans) got sick from improperly handled almonds. An entire process and new business to pasteurize almonds is now in place bringing additional revenue to companies that provide that service to almond growers to meet the new FDA requirements. And the almonds in question were not organic almonds, although the new mandate required both conventional and organic almonds be pasteurized. The FDA is currently being sued over the almond controversy and we'll see whether it opens their eyes to the truth.

Is it safe to irradiate food?

From published and confirmed studies, it's evident that irradiated food is not healthy. It has.... "caused a myriad of serious health problems in laboratory animals that ate irradiated foods, including premature death, fatal internal bleeding, a rare form of cancer, stillbirths and other reproductive problems, mutations and other genetic damage, organ malfunctions, stunted growth and vitamin deficiencies."

Studies also show that irradiation can cause the formation of unique radiolytic products (URPs) that can include cyclo-butanones, which were found to promote genetic damage and cancer in rats. Cyclo-butanones were also found to cause cellular and genetic damage in both rat and human cells. And since cyclo-butanones are a radiation byproduct of palmitic acid, a type of fat that is found in most foods, there is much to be concerned about.

Radiation also kills essential phytonutrients in the plants which are essential to protecting us from cancer, inflammation, high cholesterol, heart disease among others. For example, if you microwave broccoli, you destroy 98% of it's cancer protective nutrition. So irradiating foods in general will eliminate the benefits of eating the vegetable that you were eating for your better health to begin with.

In addition, irradiation creates free radicals, which are commonly known as being bad. Also, irradiation can form chemicals such as benzene, toluene, and methyl ethyl ketone that are linked to cancer and birth defects.

Surprising, the FDA approved meat irradiation based on only 7 studies out of the 441 submitted. Most showed health side effects or serious scientific flaws. And the vegetable irradiation was based on no studies at all. That's right, no studies. Does that sound right to you?

Do you want your vegetables pasteurized?

'Yuk' I hear you saying. That's right, why would you want your 'fresh' food microwaved in a kind of pasteurization of sorts. Take away all the dangers of irradiation discussed above and just look at it from this perspective. Does it sound right? If it does you can add it to the meat, eggs, chicken, spices and other foods that are already irradiated. It appears that they have all the animal foods covered, so now it's time to zap the fruits and vegetables.

Does irradiation work?

Think about this. E.coli is normally found in dirt where it comes from tainted animal feces. How will 'microwaving' the vegetable with radiation help eliminate what is essentially a sanitation issue since it doesn't physically remove the dirt and feces? And where it may kill e.coli and other microorganisms, it also kills valuable nutrients, up to 80% of Vitamin A as reported in published studies of irradiated eggs and up to 50% of beta carotene found in orange juice.

It just doesn't add up.

In comparing the risks to the minimal benefits, they just don't make sense. Irradiation is clearly not health promoting and mandating that conventional spinach and lettuce can be irradiated across the board is not only irresponsible but a serious health risk to Americans everywhere.

How can you avoid irradiated foods?

raduraFirst, look for the new irradiation logo that indicates a food product has been irradiated. But be careful, most items in packaged foods with many ingredients are not required to be labeled, only single or few ingredient packaged foods will have the new labels on them. Foods with irradiated spices for example are not required to be labeled.

Alternatively, and the healthiest option, choose organic or locally grown and fresh foods. Organic produce cannot be irradiated and still be organic (tells you a little about how safe it really is, right?) so choosing it is overall the best choice in eating healthy and safe foods.

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