Healthy Living

How Safe Is Food Irradiation?

Date: 5 March, 2013

With the horsemeat scandal still fresh in our minds, this may not be the best time to bring this to your attention. But you know what they say: “There is no time like the present”, especially when it comes to food safety standards and nutrition. Food irradiation is a processing technique that exposes food to electron beams, X-rays or gamma rays. The process produces a similar effect to pasteurisation, cooking or other forms of heat treatment, but does not have a similar effect on the food’s appearance or texture.

On the UK’s Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) website, they explain that decades of research worldwide has shown that food irradiation is a safe and effective way to kill bacteria in foods and extend its shelf life.

In 2011, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reviewed the evidence and reasserted the opinion that when food is irradiated, it has been exposed to radioactivity but it does not become radioactive itself and that food irradiation is therefore safe.

Food irradiation: From “filthy” to “just fine”

The problem — or I should say, problem number one — is that food irradiation gives meat producers less incentive to maintain strict sanitary production methods. Since meat producers across Europe have allowed horsemeat to enter beef products like burgers and ready meals, I think it’s fair to say that there’s room for them to cut a corner here and there.

In fact, there’s room and potential for a lot of corner-cutting. Especially when you’re talking about meat farms — especially chicken farms — jammed with tens of thousands of chickens.

Problem number two is nutrition. Any dose of radiation strong enough to wipe out pathogens will also wipe out vitamins, enzymes, and desirable bacteria. It’s like killing the food. In fact, medical authorities and food regulators are fully aware of this nutrition loss.

The next problem is safety. This is something Jon Barron, author of the book author of Lessons from the ‘Miracle Doctors:’ Step by Step Guide to Optimum Health and Relief from Catastrophic Illness has followed closely.

Contrary to what the FSA claims on their website, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the European Community Scientific Committee for Food and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), first examined, and then IGNORED studies that suggested irradiation dangers in humans.

This oversight could have a huge negative impact on your health.

Slamming food with high levels of gamma rays creates dangerous molecules. Researchers originally called them radiotoxins. But the FDA didn’t want consumers to use THAT word. So they dreamed up “known radiolytic products.”

These “products” include formaldehyde and benzene. Both are known carcinogens.

Even scarier are “unique radiolytic products.” Jon explains that these are “chemical molecules created by irradiation and that have never before been seen by man.”

Which brings us to the final problem: How do you avoid radiolytic Frankenmeat?

The FSA states that foods are irradiated in authorised irradiation facilities which must be regulated and subjected to strict safety inspections. There is currently one licensed food irradiation facility in the UK. There are more than 20 facilities in other European Union (EU) member states and ten outside the EU (three in South Africa and India, two in Thailand and one each in Turkey and Switzerland). Only facilities approved by the EU can import these foods to the UK.

The FSA continues to say that all foods which have been irradiated must be labelled as ‘irradiated’ or ‘treated with ionising radiation’. Where an irradiated food is used as an ingredient in another food, the words ‘irradiated’ or ‘treated with ionising radiation’ should appear next to the ingredient in the list of ingredients.

When irradiated food is not pre-packed these same words must appear together with the name of the product on a display or notice above or besides the container in which the products are placed.

I must say, given that consumer confidence is at an all-time low when it comes to food safety and labelling, this does not give me a tremendous amount of peace of mind.

But you do have one last option. You can buy organic. If you ever wonder if you’re getting your money’s worth with organic foods, this is at least one instance where you absolutely do.

Organic meat is not irradiated.

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“Irradiation in the Production, Processing and Handling of Food” FDA, Federal Register, Vol. 77, No. 231, 11/30/12,

“FDA increases irradiation in poultry products” World Poultry, 12/4/12,

“Is soda causing your knee troubles?” Dr. Allan Spreen, Healthier Talk, 12/5/12,

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  1. Marilyn Redmond Posted March 10, 2013

    I ate horse meat as a child in Seattle. There were stores that were Horse Meat Markets in the 40’s. Our neighbor was the Seattle city health doctor and had his family eat it. So we did to. I found nothing wrong except it was cheaper than beef.

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