“Irradiation could do for food what pasteurization has done for milk”

From Mark Bittman in the New York Times:

“After the E. coli outbreak in Europe last month — which sickened more than 3000 people and killed at least 50 — it was impossible not to think about irradiation. “What if,” I asked myself, “those little fenugreek seeds had been irradiated?” Might there have been fewer deaths, fewer cases of hemolytic-uremic syndrome (essentially, kidney failure; there were 900), fewer tragic stories?

The answer is “yes.” But it’s not the only question.

When it comes to irradiation, you might need a primer. (I did.) Simply put, irradiation — first approved by the FDA in 1963 to control insects in wheat and flour — kills pathogens in food by passing radiation through it. It doesn’t make the food radioactive any more than passing X-rays through your body makes you radioactive; it just causes changes in the food. Proponents say those changes are beneficial: like killing E. coli or salmonella bacteria. Opponents say they’re harmful: like destroying nutrients or creating damaging free radicals.

Many people are virulently for or against. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, says that irradiation “could do for food what pasteurization has done for milk.” (The main difference between irradiation and pasteurization is the source of the energy used to kill microbes.) Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch — which calls irradiation “a gross failure” — told me it was “expensive and impractical, a band-aid on the real problems with our food system.”

There are a few people in the middle. Former assistant secretary of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Carol Tucker-Foreman is mostly anti-, but said that if she ran a nursing home or a children’s hospital — a place where people with weaker-than-average immune systems were cared for — it “might be something I wanted to do.” Marion Nestle, a New York University nutrition professor and the author of “Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety” (and a food-movement icon), allows that “the bottom line is that it works pretty well if done right, and I’m not aware of any credible evidence that it does any worse harm to foods than cooking. But it isn’t always done right, and foods can become re-contaminated after irradiation.”…”

Read it all in the New York Times.


Filed under News

9 responses to ““Irradiation could do for food what pasteurization has done for milk”

  1. I have a novel idea: It’s called the free market. Let’s label things as irradiated, containing GMO’s, containing MSG, containing fluoride, not pasteurized, etc.

    So that I the consumer can take advantage of my God given right to freely contract and make choices. Probably too radical huh? Freedom is just too radical of an idea.

    • Joe, I wish I had your faith in Ayn Rand.

      In reality, the “free market” is only free to those with power. If the “free market” discovers that “corn syrup” is getting a bad rap to the point (“OH MY GAWD!”) that it is impacting sales, it’s simple: just change the name to “corn sugar.”

      Labeling laws also are used by those in power to oppress those not in power. We sell jelly at the local market. Well, we did, until the local health authority said we had to label the ingredients and have EXPENSIVE lab tests done to verify our labelling was accurate. So now, the jelly (fruit juice, organic sugar, pectin) is sold “under the table.” Heaven forbid we try to describe some of the qualities of the wildcrafted haw berry and rose hips that we put in our jelly! No, that is left for Kraft Foods, who can claim “heart healthy” on the label of their potato chips!

      Yea, freedom is nice. But it tends to be restricted to a few, and used as a hammer against the many.

      • Jan,
        Every problem you mention is an example of a non-free market.
        Sorry I don’t have the space to explain a free market to you.

      • nedlud

        Sorry about your problems, Jan. Your problems, and my story, are typical instances now, unfortunately, in the scientific dictatorship and fascist tyranny, to which we good people are presently enslaved. There really are no good guys, anywhere in industry. The good guys are all underground, black marketers. The best of us (most courageous), are in jail or dead. You cannot follow the rules and not do evil.

        Note the link below.

  2. nedlud

    Hey Joe~

    No need for labels. Everything is already irradiated and gmo-ed, cloned, flouridated, pharmaceuticalized, etc. The corpse (desire for natural purity and goodness in our food) is still kicking and twitching a bit, but that doesn’t mean it’s alive.
    My open-pollinated corn, I’ve been growing for almost 25 years, has trace gmos now. Only a trace, but STILL. And my precious (to me) organic dairy cows, my good friends in pasture and barn,
    slaughtered because of the actions and policy dictates of Organic Valley and NFO.

    Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.


    • Sounds to me all the more reason for labels Nelud.

      • nedlud

        When the ‘labels’ lie, as they lie so deeply, so blatantly now, you can, -uhhh- fuggetaboudit. This evil has been brewing a long long time. A really long time.

        Good luck though, Joe.

        We’re all gonna need some good luck.


      • nedlud

        Wendy McElroy is one of my favorite writers and thinkers. She writes here: http://mises.org/daily/5491/Grappling-with-the-Banality-of-Evil

        I can say, with certainty, that the people of Organic Valley and NFO are evil. Throughout my ‘difficulties’ I faced with them, in my position as a very small family oriented farmer, these people followed their orders. Just like the Nazis.

        Wendy McElroy wrote me a kind e-mail once, when she read my story and included it in one of her writings.

        We need luck and we need more people like her.

  3. Government schools have done their job very well. They create people that do exactly what they are told to do by “authority figures..”

    We all need to keep speaking out. That’s a top priority.

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