Forget Irradiation!

Articles
September 26, 2008

Forget Irradiation!

Last Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved use of irradiation on still more foods; this time they approved the process for spinach and iceberg lettuce. Irradiation has been used for over 50 years on spices and in the past decades has spread to use on meats, poultry, and some shellfish. Irradiated foods must be labeled as such and carry the "radura" symbol. This logo is a green leaf like abstract centered in a white circle. Irradiated foods have not become mainstream. Many food industry experts believe that consumers are confused by the term "irradiation" and their questioning the safety of the process is an error in judgment. Although in Friday's announcement, the FDA did state that irradiating spinach and iceberg lettuce produces furan, a cancer-causing chemical – but did add that the level of the substance isn't high enough to cause worry.

Last Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved use of irradiation on still more foods; this time they approved the process for spinach and iceberg lettuce. Irradiation has been used for over 50 years on spices and in the past decades has spread to use on meats, poultry, and some shellfish. Irradiated foods must be labeled as such and carry the "radura" symbol.
This logo is a green leaf like abstract centered in a white circle.

Irradiated foods have not become mainstream. Many food industry experts believe that consumers are confused by the term "irradiation" and their questioning the safety of the process is an error in judgment. Although in Friday's announcement, the FDA did state that irradiating spinach and iceberg lettuce produces furan, a cancer-causing chemical – but did add that the level of the substance isn't high enough to cause worry.

With all the food safety issues making the headlines, and the never ending stream of product recalls, you would think that most consumers would actually embrace a technology that could in fact prevent many food borne illnesses and even deaths. Or, that's what many trade associations and food companies are hoping for, which is why there is a renewed effort to have the term changed to electronic pasteurization, which may sound better to some – but I don't think that's the answer.
And based on quotes coming from some produce trade groups and brands, neither do they.

First – in order to have the irradiation of our foods widely accepted it must be proven to be 100% safe and proven that it does not change the taste, texture or nutrient value of our foods.


Second – we need to give the FDA back the financial resources that it needs to conduct inspections and create and monitor systems that insure traceability and transparency. Friday's announcement was not a positive move forward, it was a band-aid that is too small that is trying to cover up a wound that that no one seems to know how to heal.