Friday, August 6, 2010



John McCabe

Author: Sunfood Traveler: Guide to Raw Food Culture; Sunfood Diet Infusion: Transforming Health Through Raw Food Veganism; Igniting Your Life: Pathways to the Zenith of Health and Success

“A chest x-ray gives about 0.01 rad of energy. The average dose of radiation from background radiation (radiation due to cosmic rays and natural radioactivity such as radon in rocks) annually is 0.1 rad. On the other hand, the dose of radiation from gamma rays applied to food during irradiation is 100,000 to 1 million rads (1-10 kGy). The amount of radiation being applied to food during irradiation is therefore massive, 10 million to 100 million times the dose of a chest x-ray... Food irradiation creates nuclear waste just like a nuclear power plant.”

“Food irradiation is a process in which food is exposed to high doses of radiation. 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 free radicals. The free radicals react with the food to create new chemical substances called 'radiolytic products.' Those are known as 'unique radiolytic products.' (URPs) because they can only be found in irradiated products.”
- The European Food Irradiation Campaign,

IRRADIATION of food is a form of pasteurization. It uses high doses of radiation to kill microbes in food. Specifically, irradiation is meant to kill bugs that can make humans sick, including (Escherichia coli) E. coli 0157, salmonella, shigella, and lysteria.

Radiating food kills what may or may not cause human illness. It also kills enzymes, and damages other nutrients, including thiamin, and vitamins E and A. It also exposes food to radiation.

Food irradiation is a technology developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Byproduct Utilization Program. The word “byproduct” in this case refers to leftovers of the nuclear industry. In this case, cesium 37 and cobalt 60.

Many foods in supermarkets and in school, prison, military, and government cafeterias are irradiated, or “cold-pasteurized.” Many foods being imported and exported are also irradiated. This is done even though it is known that irradiation creates health-altering free radicals and radiolytic substances in the foods.

The E. coli outbreaks that have been used as an argument for radiating food are directly related to animal farms and factory animal farms polluting farmland, water, and farm and food processing equipment. The spinach that triggered the recall across the U.S. in 2006 was contaminated with a strain of E. coli that originates in the intestines of cattle treated with antibiotics. Giving cattle antibiotic-treated grain creates a particularly hazardous strain of bacteria resistant to common antibiotics.

At first the USDA said it was organic spinach that was contaminated with the E. coli. This was front-page news, got lots of people to stop eating organic spinach, and was financially damaging to organic farmers and natural foods stores. After weeks, the USDA finally admitted that organic spinach wasn't the culprit. This was after the damage had been done to the organic farming industry. Many people never heard the news that it wasn't organic spinach, because the latter news stories largely didn't make front-page news.

Many of the people who work for the USDA have worked for, or eventually work for, the large corporate farming companies, for some branch of the animal farming industry, for the industrialized food industry, and/or for the companies that produce farming chemicals.
Do you really want to be eating foods exposed to radiation, which accumulates in tissues? I don't.
Because irradiated foods are not labeled as such, ways of avoiding irradiated foods include eating organically grown, locally grown, homegrown, and wildharvested foods.
Why do we oppose food irradiation?

o Irradiated food is dangerous for human health.

o Food irradiation can be used as a substitute for good sanitary practices in food production.

o Irradiation plants and transportation of nuclear materials to them create environmental threat to workers and surrounding communities.

o Food irradiation is used to lengthen the food shelf life. By doing so, it encourages globalization of production, which proves detrimental to small family farmers around the world and to the environment.
- The European Food Irradiation Campaign,

What Irradiation Does To Food

Ionizing radiation reduces the number of disease causing organisms in food by disrupting their molecular structure, thereby killing potentially harmful bacteria and parasites. But not all pathogens are destroyed, and irradiated meat must be cooked as thoroughly as non-irradiated meat. Irradiated meat can be re-contaminated from improper handling and storage.

Irradiated food does not itself, become radioactive, but the ionizing radiation creates new radiolytic chemicals implicated as carcinogens, while destroying the vitamins A, B complex, C and E. It increases the trans fatty acids in meat, which have been linked to higher levels of “bad cholesterol.” The watchdog organization, Public Citizen, indicates research has found a wide range of health problems in laboratory rats fed irradiated food, including genetic damage and cancer. Additional research shows that cyclobutanones, a new class of chemicals created by irradiation, cause genetic damage to human cells.

As for flavor, Consumer Reports trained tasters noted a slight, but distinct off-taste and smell in most of the irradiated beef sampled, likening it to singed hair.

An Experiment on Children

The federal government has recently acknowledged the unique vulnerability of children as more likely than adults to get cancer from exposure to toxic chemicals, and has drawn up new guidelines for the US Environmental Agency (EPA) to evaluate dangers posed by pesticides and other cancer-causing chemicals. But the entire issue of irradiation destroying nutrient content of food, while creating a whole new class of chemicals that cause cancer and genetic damage is being completely ignored by all three federal regulatory agencies the EPA, USDA, and FDA. Opponents to irradiation believe this is an unprecedented and dangerous experiment on the nations children.
- Rose Marie Williams, Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, October, 2004

Who's responsible for irradiation policy?

The FDA is responsible for evaluation of the existing scientific evidence on whether or not irradiation is harmful (as it does for new drugs). It is also responsible for writing the policy on the permitted doses and labeling of irradiation for nonmeat products, and the enforcement of that policy.

The USDA is responsible for writing the policy on the permitted doses and labeling of irradiation for meat, poultry and their products, and the enforcement of that policy.

No law prevents states from passing their own labeling laws, but in practice their right to label (under Amendment X to the Constitution) has consistently been overturned IF the labeling 'impeded' interstate commerce. Only in unusual cases should we expect a state-level labeling law to survive legal challenges from businesses that operate interstate.

The most powerful players: Congress and the food industry (which influences Congress):

CONGRESS: Congress tells the FDA what to do. The FDA must carry out the will of Congress. So if Congress passes legislation that says, “Invent a new word for irradiation that won't scare people, and also make sure that all irradiated products which must be labeled use that new word by March 2002,” the FDA has to carry out that policy. Depending on the type of policy, the FDA may or may not ask for public comments on its decision before actually putting it into action.

The public tends to ignore food issues, unless they are from farm states. Large agricultural businesses have a great deal of influence over farm-state and Western Senators as well as some Representatives. As a result, agribusiness and food processors tend to set the agenda in Congress, because Members from urban and suburban districts often vote on food issues without having to pay for their votes politically. Also, urban and suburban Members can easily pay back a campaign contributor with a vote that benefits the food industry rather than the public. For urban and suburban Members, votes on food issues can be 'traded' without much expectation of consumer backlash.
- Organic Consumers Association, 2002,

European Food Irradiation Campaign,,

Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund,

Food and Water Watch,

Food Irradiation Watch,
Organic Consumers Association,
No Cobalt 4 Food,
John McCabe, Author:

Sunfood Diet Infusion: Transforming Health Through Raw Food Veganism
Sunfood Traveler: Guide to Raw Food Culture
Sunfood Living: Resource Guide for Global Health
Igniting Your Life: Pathways to the Zenith of Health and Success
Hemp: What the world needs now