The Controversy Over Food Irradiation
Each year, food-borne microorganisms (e-coli, salmonella) are responsible for approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths, just in the U.S. alone.
In an effort to curb this trend and ensure the safety of the food you eat, irradiation is being used to destroy disease-causing organisms found in food, a process that treats foods with a short burst of potent radiation. Foods that are currently irradiated include pork, poultry, red meat, eggs, sprouting seeds, fruits and certain vegetables, such as potatoes and lettuce. But, is irradiation safe? Those committed to natural health mostly say “no.”
As with most issues, there are two sides:
The Pros of Irradiation:
- Kills dangerous bacteria that cause illnesses, such as salmonella and e-coli
- Extends shelf life of foods
- Kills insects in grains
- Allows fruits to be picked early, delaying maturation
- Allows fruits, such as strawberries, to keep for longer periods (i.e., three weeks vs. 4-5 days.
The Cons of Irradiation:
- Doesn’t address the causes of the problem, such as unsanitary plant and farm conditions where foods are processed and packaged
- Reduces the nutritional value, taste, quality and texture of foods
- Causes meats to darken and fish to become mushy
- Destroys certain essential vitamins, some of which aid fat digestion (Vitamins A, E, K and C)
- There may be possible reproductive effects
- May cause farmers and food processing plants to become more lax about cleanliness and sterilization procedures
- Increases the price of treated foods to compensate for cost of the process
- Long-term effects on consumers and food-processing plant workers are unknown
Food irradiation is endorsed by the World Health Organization and is permitted in nearly 40 countries; appropriate package labeling is usually required. The president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), Warren Bell, comments, “The slaughterhouse industry is out of control. They can’t safely process the volumes they do in those plants.” This organization argues that processing a large volume of animals makes it nearly impossible to keep fecal matter out of food.
It’s always frightening when governments introduce procedures that have yet to be fully evaluated. The choice is yours, but keeping your immune system in tip-top shape is certainly advised if you do eat irradiated meats and produce. And the best way to do that is through regular chiropractic adjustments.