Thursday, August 28, 2008

Irradiated Food

I've been reading up on the issue of using radiation to protect our food supply from contamination; e.coli and the like. Evidently, a recent decision has given the green light for it's use on lettuce and spinach.

Prima facie, such arguments as:

"When ground beef is irradiated, at least 99.99 percent of E. coli and other harmful foodborne bacteria are killed."

- and -

"The CDC estimates that if just 50 percent of the meat and poultry consumed in the United States were irradiated, the number of foodborne illnesses would be reduced annually by 900,000 and deaths by 352."

It almost seems a no brainer, but the more I think about it, the less I like it.

First of all it just seems patently absurd to me; that these most basic food elements off the farm; spinach, beef - they just aren't safe. Gotta nuke it! Cheez Whiz and Twinkies? Perfectly safe.

I know there are logical flaws with that argument, but even so - is this really the best solution we can come up with? Seems to me the tail is wagging the dog.

And it's not the issue of lingering radiation in the food that scares me. (It doesn't give me warm fuzzies, but it doesn't scare me) What worries me most is that we've just closed any real incentive to keep poop away from food in the first place. Don't worry about it - the radiation will kill it!

And there are other concerns..I was reading a decent debate on Bill Marler's Blog when I noticed this tidbit from Linda Greene - testing director for Food & Sensory Sciences at 'Consumer Reports' regarding radiation treated meat:

"Does irradiated meat taste different? - When presented with pairs of food, our trained tasters were able to detect the irradiated beef or chicken 66 of 72 times because it had a very slight "off" taste. But the average consumer may not notice the difference."


And there's some vitamin loss caused by the radiation that we know about. Are we so arrogant that we don't think there could be unintended consequences from a nutritional standpoint from eating this stuff?

Lastly, one other thing to keep in mind - irradiated produce lasts longer. Why is that a bad thing? Because produce is supposed to rot. That's how you know it's no good for you anymore.

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