- Originally reported on Leaflady.org in 1998.
on the Problems with Food Irradiation
- Food irradiation exposes food to the equivalent of 30
million chest X-rays.
- Irradiation creates new chemicals in foods called radiolytic
products. Some of these products are known cancer-causing substances (like
benzene in irradiated beef). Others are unique to the irradiation process
and no one knows what effects these have on human health.
- Irradiation destroys essential vitamins and nutrients
that are naturally present in food. No studies have been done to show that
a long-term diet of irradiated foods is safe. Safer, well-tested alternatives
to irradiation exist.
- Irradiation plants pose environmental threats to workers
and surrounding communities. The transportation of nuclear materials to
irradiation facilities also poses severe public health risks.
- What's Wrong with Food Irradiation?
- Irradiation damages the quality of food.
- Foods that have been exposed to ionizing radiation have
second-rate nutrition and "counterfeit freshness." Irradiated
fats tend to become rancid. Even at low doses, some irradiated foods lose
20% of vitamins such as C, E, K, and B complex. Because irradiation
breaks down the food's cell walls, accelerated vitamin losses occur
during storage--up to 80%. Ironically, irradiation both creates harmful
free radicals and destroys the antioxidant vitamins necessary to fight
them! When electron beams are used, trace amounts of radioactivity
may be created. In Europe, food irradiation has been used to camouflage
spoiled seafood. Consumers should ask, "Why is the food suddenly so
dirty that it has to be irradiated?"
- Irradiation produces toxic byproducts in the food.
- Ionizing radiation knocks electrons out of atoms and
creates free radicals. These free radicals react with food components,
creating new radiolytic products, some of which are toxic (benzene, formaldehyde,
lipid peroxides) and some of which may be unique to irradiated foods. No
one knows the long term impact of eating unknown quantities of these
damaged foods. Studies on animals fed irradiated foods have shown
increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney damage. Chromosomal
abnormalities occurred in children from India who were fed freshly irradiated
- Irradiation using radioactive materials is an environmental
- In Georgia, radioactive water escaped from an irradiation
facility; the taxpayers were stuck with $47 million in cleanup costs.
In New Jersey, radioactive water was poured into drains that emptied into
the public sewer system. Few communities want the increased risks of hosting
irradiation facilities and the periodic transport of radioactive materials
to and from irradiators. Numerous worker exposures have occurred worldwide.
- Irradiation is a quick fix with long-term consequences.
- Irradiation doesn't kill all bacteria; those that survive
are radiation-resistant. Eventually these bacteria will require higher
doses of radiation. Irradiation doesn't kill the bacterium that causes
botulism, or viruses. It can't be used on dairy products, a major
source of food poisoning. If the labels are removed, irradiation will be
used very widely because producers will 'follow the leader' and irradiate
to prevent themselves from liability for food poisoning, no matter
how remote the possibility. The costs, as always, will be passed on to
- Irradiation doesn't solve the problem, it just covers
- In a 1997 CBS nationwide poll, 77% of US consumers did
not want irradiated food. This public resistance is why food trade
associations have been plotting to eliminate all requirements for labeling
irradiated food. Irradiation is not the only option for providing
clean and sustainable food. Cleaning up filthy slaughter houses, slowing
down processing lines, increasing the number of federal meat inspectors, and
encouraging local and organic agriculture instead of factory farming are
just a few proposals that can lead to long-term food safety solutions
without the risks of irradiation.
- Source material originally from BioDemocracy and
Organic Consumers Association