why do foods need to be irradiated?

what is irridiation? what does it do to the food?

Posted Answers

A:

The Dangers Of
Food Irradiation
From Dr. Gayle Eversole, PhD, ND
4-15-8

Originally reported on Leaflady.org in 1998.
More 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 wheat.

Irradiation using radioactive materials is an environmental hazard.

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 the consumer.

Irradiation doesn't solve the problem, it just covers it up.

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

Dr Bob Podcast/Dr Bob Talks
Dead Food – Irradiation of Fruits and Vegetables
There's a new program to sterilize the food and destroy the nutritional value of fresh produce (unfortunately most fresh produce is not fit to eat but it still has some nutritional value). The people in this program are the usual government agencies and chemical companies that have corporate America in mind, not your good health: the USDA and the American Chemical Society – an association that represents the interests of industrial chemical and food manufacturers. The latest “how can we hurt the people and help the bottom line of corporate America” is from USDA researchers who conducted a study to see which method more effectively killed bacteria on leafy green vegetables like spinach, lettuce, etc.
The purpose of irradiation is to extend shelf life of produce, not prevent disease. Certainly there are some people who get sick from time to time from produce, but if the numbers were that big it would be all over the TV and newspapers.
Irradiation is being done for greedy companies, but the public will suffer with poor health because the produce will be reduced to zero nutrition.
Please listen to this podcast and think of ways that health-conscious people can get around the USDA’s edict.
To Your Good Health
Dr Bob the Health Builder
1501 N. Grand, Suite D
Box 233
Gainesville, TX 76240

The object of food irradiation is to stop things moving. By that we mean
genes, and their products, the various toxins that some E.coli strains
produce.

We digest proteins that we consume, and interconvert the oligopeptides
and amino acids into the host of substances that make up our communities.

We convert sugars...we assemble pretty much what 4 billion years of
genetic experimentation has equipped us to deal with.

But what you are talking about is dead meat...

Very dead meat....meat that the autolysis process has begun to convert
into the classic "tender" steak. The free radicals and lipid peroxides
have just a tiny path length before they expire in a welter of
half-denatured proteins (Rare Steak).

A shame that the 25 million pounds of protein-rich food was wasted in a
world that has so little care for its poor. We are not dealing with
Cordon Bleu cooking here, but simply the need to provide the basic
building blocks for life.

Nuked food is the common term for irradiated food - food which is exposed to high level radiation for the purpose of sterilizing it. This high level radiation penetrates the food which, as anyone who has paid attention in chemistry knows, raises the energy level of the atoms and molecules which the food is composed of. This results in myriad "free radicals" - atoms which have lost an outer electron due to having absorbed a shot of higher energy.

And instead of being chemically neutral, such an atom has now become strongly attractive. This will break and re-arrange many chemicals bonds in the atoms, molecules and chemical compounds of the cells of the food under radiation. So much so that the cellular processes of any micro-organisms in the food are disrupted, and the micro-organisms in the food are killed.

The cells of micro-organisms live and die by exactly the same chemical laws and processes that our cells live by. And if our cells were subjected to the same radiation, they would die just as surely.

The idea is that the radiation dissipates, and things return to normal. But we have come to know and understand that free radicals form stable compounds that are different from the original chemical compounds, and that the free radicals and the altered compounds are harmful to us in many, many ways - among them a trigger for heart diseases and cancer.

The greatest danger, in my view, is the havoc such free radicals can wreak in the delicate chemistry of reproduction, when our cells, or an ova, divide and replicate - a cell or an an ovum is about the same size as a micro-organism - and in the growth and development of the embryo, when it is acutely vulnerable to any abnormalities.

Personally, I cannot understand how people can be so irresponsible to allow and apply what is such a powerful free radical creation tool that it kills all micro-organisms in the food - micro-organisms which live and die by exactly the same chemistry as we do. To me this is incomprehensible.

Here then is a calm and cogent article by an accomplished and respected Cancer research scientist, plus a few abstracts (no abstracts were available for many more papers) of animal trials done with irradiated food, as listed in the Public Archives of the National Library of Medicine.

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Original Article:

George L. Tritsch, PhD
Cancer Research Scientist, Roswell Park Memorial Institute, New York State Department of Health.

I am speaking as a private citizen, and my opinions are my own, based on thirty-three years of experience since my doctorate at Cornell Medical College, Rockefeller University and, since 1959, as a cancer research scientist and biochemist at Roswell.

I am opposed to consuming irradiated food because of the abundant and convincing evidence in the refereed scientific literature that the condensation products of the free radicals formed during irradiation produce statistically significant increases in carcinogenesis, mutagenesis and cardiovascular disease in animals and man. I will not address the reported destruction of vitamins and other nutrients (what? - more nutrient deficiencies?; my comment) by irradiation because suitable supplementation of the diet can prevent the development of such potential deficiencies. However, I cannot protect myself from the carcinogenic and other harmful insults to the body placed into the food supples and I can see no tangible benefit to be traded for the possible increased incidence of malignant disease one to three decades in the future.

Irradiation works by splitting chemical bonds in molecules with high energy beams to form ions and free radicals. When sufficient critical bonds are split in organisms contaminating a food, the organism is killed. Comparable bonds are split in the food. Ions are stable; free radicals contain an unpaired electron and are inherently unstable and therefore reactive. How long free radicals remain in food treated with a given dose of radiation or the reaction products formed in a given food cannot be calculated but must be tested experimentally for each food. Different doses of radiation will produce different amounts and kinds of products.

The kinds of bonds split in a given molecule are governed by statistical considerations. Thus, while most molecules of a given fatty acid, for example, may be split in a certain manner, other molecules of the same fatty acid will be split differently. A free radical can either combine with another free radical to form a stable compound, or it can initiate a [chemical] chain reaction by reacting with a stable molecule to form another free radical, et cetera, until the chain is terminated by the reaction of two free radicals to form a stable compound. These reactions continue long after the irradiation procedure.

I am bringing this up to give you a rationale for the vast number of new molecules that can be formed from irradiation of a single molecular species, to say nothing of a complicated mixture such as food. Furthermore, the final number and types of new molecules formed will depend on the other molecules present in the sample. Thus, free radicals originating from fats could form new compounds with proteins, nucleic acids [DNA], and so forth.
[ found at: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/8979/page26.html ].

Abstracts: [from the public archives of the National Library of Medicine]

1) Micronucleus test in mice fed on an irradiated diet.
Jpn J Vet Res 1989 Apr;37(2):41-7
Endoh D, Hashimoto N, Sato F, Kuwabara M.
A mutagenicity study was carried out in mice fed on a gamma-irradiated diet. As an indicator of mutagenic activity, we observed an incidence of micronuclei in erythrocytes. The average body weight of the mice fed on the diet irradiated to dose range of 400-1,000 kGy decreased, and the mice fed on the 800-1,000 kGy-irradiated diet died during the period from 8 to 14 days after the start of feeding. On the other hand, when the mutagenic activity of the irradiated diet was tested by observing occurrence of micronucleus in erythrocytes, no significant increase was recognized. These results indicated that the irradiated diet had no mutagenic activity, even though it possessed a toxic effect on the growth of mice. PMID: 2779058 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

2) Genetic effects of feeding irradiated wheat to mice.
Can J Genet Cytol 1976 Jun;18(2):231-8
Vijayalaxmi.
The effects of feeding irradiated wheat in mice on bone marrow and testis chromosomes, germ cell numbers and dominant lethal mutations were investigated. Feeding of freshly irradiated wheat resulted in significantly increased incidence of polyploid cells in bone marrow, aneuploid cells in testis, reduction in number of spermatogonia of types A, B and resting primary spermatocytes as well as a higher mutagenic index. Such a response was not observed when mice were fed stored irradiated wheat. Also there was no difference between the mice fed un-irradiated wheat and stored irradiated wheat. PMID: 990994 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

3) Chromosome studies on bone marrow cells of Chinese hamsters fed a radiosterilized diet.
Toxicology 1977 Oct;8(2):213-22
Renner HW.
Metaphase preparations of chromosomes from bone marrow cells of Chinese hamsters were examined for mutagenic effects following the feeding of a radiosterilized diet. No increase in the incidence of structural chromosomal aberrations was observed. As far as numerical aberrrations were concerned, the proportion of cells with polyploidy increased to between 4 to 5 times the control level, irrespective of the moisture content of the diet. This polyploidy effect occurred very early, being detectable within 24 h, if the diet fed had been irradiated with an absorbed dose of 4.5 - 10(6) rad. The incidence of polyploidy remained below 0.5%, however, nor did it rise with higher radiation doses. When the feeding of the irradiated diet was stopped, the proportion of polyploid cells returned to the control level within a maximum of 6 weeks. If the diet was stored (initially) for 6 weeks following irradiation before being fed to the animals no increase in the number of polyploid cells was noted. These results are not interpreted as a mutagenic effect of the irradiated diet. PMID: 929628 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

4) Irradiated laboratory animal diets: dominant lethal studies in the mouse.
Mutat Res 1981 Feb;80(2):333-45
Anderson D, Clapp MJ, Hodge MC, Weight TM.
In 4 separate dominant lethal experiments groups of mice of either Charles River CD1 or Alderley Park strains were fed laboratory diets (Oakes, 41B, PRD, BP nutrition rat and mouse maintenance diet No. 1). The diets were either untreated (negative control diets) or irradiated at 1, 2.5 and 5 megarad and were freshly irradiated, or stored. The animals were fed their test diets for a period of 3 weeks prior to mating. Groups of mice given a single intraperitoneal injection of 200 mg cyclophosphamide per kg body weight served as the positive controls. Freshly irradiated PRD diet fed to male mice of both strains caused an increase in early deaths in females mated to the males in week 7 and to a lesser extent in week 4. The increase due to irradiation was small by comparison with that produced by the positive control compound. The responses for the other irradiated diets showed no significant increases in early deaths although some values for Oakes diet were high. The effect of storage was examined with PRD and BPN diet on one occasion and produced conflicting results. Thus there was some evidence that irradiated PRD diet has weak mutagenic activity in the meiotic and/or pre-meiotic phase of the spermatogenic cycle which appeared to be lessened on storage; the inclusion of such a diet in toxicological studies would therefore need to be carefully considered. PMID: 7207489 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

5) The effect of ionizing irradiation on sensory changes in feed in relation to their utilization by dogs
Vet Med (Praha) 1985 Dec;30(12):739-48, [Article in Czech]
Smid K, Dvorak J, Hrusovsky J.
To evaluate the effect of ionizing radiation on sensory changes of feeds in relation to their utilization by dogs, four groups of experimental animals were formed. Two groups were fed a ration where the main component (meat feed mixture VETACAN and loose feed mixture VETAVIT) was irradiated by radioisotope Co 60 at the dose of 25 kGy/kg for the period of 90 days. In the remaining two groups a non-irradiated ration was used for the same period. For both diets, control groups of dogs were formed and the feed ration was biologically fortified by a vitamin-mineral supplement to the physiological standard. It followed from the observations that the effect of radiation caused a significant qualitative decrease in the level of energy nutrients, particularly in the protein and lipid sphere. It is assumed that the extent of damage of lipid fraction is also accompanied by deficient vitamin activity and further by significant changes of taste and aromatic properties felt by animals. Irradiation of the feed ration caused a significant 20 to 25% decrease of food intake with a subsequent decrease of live weight and deterioration of physical condition. Irradiated diets without biological fortification caused significant losses of weight from the initial value mean = 39.5 kg to mean = 35.33 kg, in comparison with the non-irradiated rations through which the live weight was stabilized, and at biological fortification positively influenced. Irradiation of the feed ration during the period of study had not caused a response of the organism displayed in changes of physiological values of body temperature and heart and respiration rates in experimental animals. Radiosterilization of feeds had not caused any significant decrease of training ability and performance of dogs. PMID: 3937317 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

6) Immune response in rats given irradiated wheat.
Br J Nutr 1978 Nov;40(3):535-41
Vijayalaxmi.
1. Rats given diets containing freshly-irradiated wheat showed significantly lower mean antibody titres to four different antigens, decreased numbers of antibody-forming cells in the spleen and rosette-forming lymphocytes as compared to rats given either unirradiated wheat or irradiated wheat stored for a period of 12 weeks. 2. The immune response in rats given 90 g protein/kg diet was essentially similar to that seen in animals given 180 g protein/kg diet. PMID: 568934 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Nuclear Lunch: The Dangers and Unknowns of Food Irradiation

The recent push for food irradiation fails to acknowledge the technology's inherent dangers, its intricate connections to the nuclear industry, and the FDA's failure to prove safety.
Beginning in 1986, the FDA has given the green light to expose nearly our entire food supply to nuclear irradiation. Since then, staunch citizen opposition has kept the technology out of use. But the recent hamburger recall led both the food and nuclear industries to push hard for beef irradiation's approval. Its use in the beef industry would open the door to irradiation as the "solution" to contamination crises in all food groups, from poultry to fruits and vegetables.

With beef irradiation's quick passage through the FDA approval process, citizen opposition, not government regulation, remains the critical component in keeping irradiated food off store shelves.

And from the hazards inherent in the technology to the FDA's own admission that the safety studies are flawed, the risks involved with food irradiation far outweigh the presumed "benefits."

Irradiation Basics

Food is irradiated using radioactive gamma sources, usually cobalt 60 or cesium 137, or high energy electron beams. The gamma rays break up the molecular structure of the food, forming positively and negatively charged particles called free radicals. The free radicals react with the food to create new chemical substances called "radiolytic products." Those unique to the irradiation process are known as "unique radiolytic products" (URPs).

Some radiolytic products, such as formaldehyde, benzene, formic acid, and quinones are harmful to human health. Benzene, for example, is a known carcinogen. In one experiment, seven times more benzene was found in cooked, irradiated beef than in cooked, non-irradiated beef. Some URPs are completely new chemicals that have not even been identified, let alone tested for toxicity.

In addition, irradiation destroys essential vitamins, including vitamin A, thiamin, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, C, E, and K; amino acid and essential polyunsaturated fatty acid content may also be affected. A 20 to 80 percent loss of any of these is not uncommon.

Safety Studies Flawed

The FDA reviewed 441 toxicity studies to determine the safety of irradiated foods. Dr. Marcia van Gemert, the team leader in charge of new food additives at the FDA and the chairperson of the committee in charge of investigating the studies, testified that all 441 studies were flawed.

The government considers irradiation a food additive. In testing food additives for toxicity, laboratory animals are fed high levels (in comparison to a human diet) of potential toxins.

The results must then be applied to humans with theoretical models. It is questionable whether the studies the FDA used to approve food irradiation followed this process. In fact, the FDA claimed only five of the 441 were "properly conducted, fully adequate by 1980 toxicological standards, and able to stand alone in support of safety." With the shaky assurance of just five studies, the FDA approved irradiation for the public food system.

With the shaky assurance of just five studies, the FDA approved irradiation for the public food supply.

To make matters worse, the Department of Preventative Medicine and Community Health of the New Jersey Medical School found two of the studies were methodologically flawed. In a third study, animals eating a diet of irradiated food experienced weight loss and miscarriage, almost certainly due to irradiation-induced vitamin E dietary deficiency.

The remaining two studies investigated the effects of diets of foods irradiated at doses below the FDA-approved general level of 100,000 rads. Thus, they cannot be used to justify food irradiation at the levels approved by the FDA.

Other studies indicate serious health problems associated with eating irradiated food.

A compilation of 12 studies carried out by Raltech Scientific Services, Inc. under contract with the U.S. government examined the effect of feeding irradiated chicken to several different animal species.

The studies indicated the possibility of chromosome damage, immunotoxicity, greater incidence of kidney disease, cardiac thrombus, and fibroplasia. In reviewing Raltech's findings in 1984, USDA researcher Donald Thayer asserted, "A collective assessment of study results argues against a definitive conclusion that the gamma-irradiated test material was free of toxic properties."

Studies of rats fed irradiated food also indicate possible kidney and testicular damage and a statistically significant increase in testicular tumors.

One landmark study in India found four out of five children fed irradiated wheat developed polyploidy, a chromosomal abnormality that is a good indication of future cancer development.

Irradiation proponents often claim that decades of research demonstrate the safety of food irradiation, but the studies they use to prove it are questionable. For instance, their "proof" includes studies completed by Industry Bio-Test (IBT), a firm convicted in 1983 of conducting fraudulent research for government and industry. As a result of IBT's violations, the government lost about $4 million and six years of animal feeding study data on food irradiation. Some of this discredited work is still used as a part of the "scientific" basis for assurances of the safety of food irradiation.

Accidents Happen

Workers in irradiation plants risk exposure to large doses of radiation due to equipment failure, leaks, and the production, transportation, storage, installation, and replacement of radiation sources. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has recorded 54 accidents at 132 irradiation facilities worldwide since 1974. But this number is probably low since the NRC has no information about irradiation facilities in approximately 30 "agreement" states which have the authority to monitor facilities on their own.

New Jersey is home to the highest concentration of irradiation facilities, and virtually every New Jersey plant has a record of environmental contamination, worker overexposure, or regulatory failures.

Accidents can be nearly fatal to workers and extremely dangerous to the surrounding communities.

For instance:

In 1991, a worker at a Maryland facility suffered critical injuries when exposed to ionizing radiation from an electron-beam accelerator. The victim developed sores and blisters on his feet, face, and scalp, and lost fingers on both hands.

In 1988, Radiation Sterilizers, Inc. (RSI) in Decatur, GA, reported a leak of cesium 137 capsules into the water storage pool, endangering workers and contaminating the facility. Workers then carried the radioactivity into their homes and cars. Cleanup costs exceeded $30 million and taxpayers footed the bill.

In 1986, the NRC revoked the license of a Radiation Technology, Inc. (RTI) facility in New Jersey for 32 worker-safety violations, including throwing radioactive garbage out with the trash and bypassing a key safety device. As a result of this negligence, one worker received a near lethal dose of radiation.

In 1982, an accident at International Nutronics in Dover, NJ, contaminated the plant and forced its closure. Radiation baths were used to purify gems, chemicals, food and medical supplies.

In 1974, an Isomedix facility in New Jersey flushed radioactive water down toilets and contaminated pipes leading to sewers. In the same year, a worker received a dose of radiation considered lethal for 70 percent of the population. Prompt hospital treatment saved his life.

Not a Silver Bullet

Irradiation poses serious risks, and it still does not ensure safe meat. Although it kills most bacteria, it does not destroy the toxins created in the early stages of contamination. And it also kills beneficial bacteria which produce odors indicating spoilage and naturally control the growth of harmful bacteria.

Irradiation also stimulates aflatoxin production.

Aflatoxin occurs naturally in humid areas and tropical countries in fungus spores and on grains and vegetables. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers aflatoxin to be a significant public health risk and a major contributor to liver cancer in the South.

In addition, irradiation will likely have a mutagenic effect on bacteria and viruses that survive exposure. Mutated survivors could be resistant to antibiotics and could evolve into more virulent strains. Mutated bacteria could also become radiation-resistant, rendering the radiation process ineffective for food exposed to radiation-resistant strains.

Beyond Beef

Though the current push for food irradiation focuses on meat, if the technology is adopted by the meat industry and used on a mass scale, vegetarians as well as meat eaters will be impacted.

If adopted, the number of new irradiation facilities built would range from dozens to hundreds, depending on how the meat industry chose to utilize the technology. At the same time, the companies that build them will be looking for ways to offset their costs, and approaching other food industries to use the technology. Poultry, spices, and even fresh fruits and vegetables -- foods for which irradiation has already been approved by the FDA -- could easily be the next foods to pass through the irradiators.

Whether you're a meat eater, a vegetarian, or waiver somewhere between the two, this renewed push for food irradiation should concern us all.

Radiation-resistent strains of salmonella have already been developed under laboratory conditions, and scientists at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge have found that one bacteria occurring in spoiled meat and animal feces can survive a radiation dose five times what the FDA will eventually approve for beef. Scientists exposed bacteria , called D. radiourans, to between 10 and 15 kilograys (kGy) or radiation for several hours - enough radiation to kill a person several thousand times over. The bacteria, which scientists speculate evolved to survive extreme conditions of dehydration, survived the radiation exposure.

The Nuclear Connection

To irradiate beef and poultry in the US on a mass scale, hundreds of irradiation facilities would need to be built. Currently, the radiation source for most irradiators is cobalt 60, supplied by the Canadian company Nordion International, Inc. But the only isotope available in sufficient quantities for large-scale irradiation is cesium 137, which is also one of the deadliest. With a half-life of 30 years, cesium 137 remains dangerous for nearly 600 years.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) initially encouraged food irradiation as part of its Byproduct Utilization Program (BUP) created in the 1970s to promote the commercial use of nuclear byproducts. The DOE claimed nuclear byproducts "have a wide range of applications in food technology, agriculture, energy, public health, medicine, and industrial technology," and wanted to "ensure full realization of the benefits of the peaceful atom."

The US Department of Energy initially encouraged food irradiation as part of its Byproduct Utilization Program created in the 1970s to promote the commercial use of nuclear byproducts.

At the same time, it would transfer the burden of nuclear waste from weapons production to consumerism a fact the DOE admitted to the House Armed Services Committee in 1983: "The utilization of these radioactive materials simply reduces our waste handling problem; we get some of these very hot elements like cesium and strontium out of the waste."

Not only would this take care of the DOE's waste problem, it would develop the technology to reprocess spent nuclear reactor fuel in order to recover cesium 137. The reprocessing would also enable the DOE to recover plutonium, the main ingredient for nuclear weapons.

After the 1988 irradiator accident in Decatur, Georgia, the DOE stopped actively promoting food irradiation and the use of cesium 137. But the store of cesium 137 is ready and waiting.

Irradiation Today

With the FDA's approval of beef irradiation, the irradiation industry is poised to use it as a springboard for flooding the market with a new wave of food irradiation promotion. To be successful, however, irradiation proponents must convince retailers that consumers want the technology. The irradiation industry sees education or "consumer training" as the key to citizen acceptance.

In response, scientists at major land-grant universities, with the full support of the USDA, are developing "educational" materials. Iowa State University (ISU), home of one of two publicly held food irradiation facilities in the US, developed a pro-irradiation educational video with a $39,000 grant from the USDA Extension Service. The USDA gave grants to projects designed to influence public acceptance of food technologies, specifically food irradiation.

But citizens don't want irradiated foods.

Surveys conducted in 1990 and 1994 by HealthFocus, a marketing consulting firm specializing in consumer health trends, found that over 80 percent of consumers were concerned about food irradiation. A study at ISU found when consumers are given solid arguments both for and against irradiation, acceptance of the technology is substantially lower than if they were only given the pro-irradiation side of the story. An August 1997 CBS News poll found nationwide 73 percent of people oppose it, and 77 percent say they wouldn't eat irradiated food.

Citizen aversion to irradiation is so strong, no major supermarket chain will carry irradiated foods, and all the top poultry companies in the nation have stated they will not adopt the technology. The US government may approve its use, but that doesn't mean citizens will believe it's safe, or that they will buy irradiated food.

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Excerpted from the Food & Water report "Meat Monopolies: Dirty Meat and the False Promises of Irradiation" by Susan Meeker-Lowry and Jennifer Ferrara.


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