Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Irradiated Lettuce and Spinach

In August the FDA approved the voluntary irradiation of fresh and packaged spinach and iceberg lettuce as a measure to prevent the spread of bacterial foodborne illnesses. It claims that the procedure is safe and does not destroy any nutrients in the food, in spite of plenty of research to the contrary (check out the references at the end of The Center for Food Safety's irradiation fact sheet for starters).

My own opinion on the matter is that the FDA is not concerned about providing consumers with healthy and nutritious foods, but rather with protecting industrial agriculture and its sloppy and unsafe environmental practices. Most of the outbreaks of foodborne illnesses can be traced to industrial farms, in one way or another, NOT to organic farms. This ruling simply protects the industrial farms from lawsuits and allows them to continue business as usual.

For now, the FDA requires irradiated produce to carry the "radura" logo and the statement "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation", but as the Center for Food Safety's fact sheet mentions, there is lobbying by industry interests to have that information hidden. Of course.

Find me a consumer who is attracted to that little "radura" symbol--who sees that and says "Ooh, I think I'll buy this! Safe, irradiated food!" I bet you couldn't find a single one, unless he or she was connected to the industry in some way. I'll tell you what my reaction was the first time I saw produce carrying that symbol--I literally backed away in horror.

The scary thing is that you just can't know what you're eating if you eat out at restaurants or salad bars. That's one of the reasons we almost never eat out. We grow our own greens or buy organic and joyfully eat them raw.

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