How well do you know your food? Did you know most non-organic fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, wheat flour, and spices are irradiated? Irradiation is a process through which ionizing radiation in the form of gamma rays, x-rays, or electrons are used to kill bacteria in food. Irradiation, however, can destroy many of the vitamins in foods (between 5 and 80 percent!). According to The Center for Food Safety, irradiation also doubles the amount of trans-fat in beef, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Irradiation can even damage the natural digestive enzymes in raw foods. These foods look fresh and are allowed by the US Food and Drug Administration to be labeled “fresh”, but nutritionally are closer to cooked foods with decreased vitamins and enzymes.
Why would anyone irradiate foods? Because irradiation dramatically increases the shelf life of products. In America, irradiated food is labeled if it is “materially changed.” Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any long-term studies proving whether irradiated foods are safe for human health. Consumer and natural food advocates want to change the regulations, allowing consumers to know if products are irradiated. In response, food companies have suggested labeling irradiated foods as “pasteurized” – a completely different process, but a term they believe consumers would more easily accept.
So what do we do? I prefer to eat an organic diet to stay away from irradiated foods. For many people, it can be as simple as buying straight from the farm or at your local farmer’s market.
I picked up lots of wonderful, truly fresh fruit at the farmer’s market a few days ago. As I was walking to my car, I remembered my favorite summertime dessert as a kid – fruit pizza. A soft sugar cookie dough and sweet, fluffy cream cheese topped with fresh fruit. Any fruit can be used on this dessert so choose your favorite. While enjoying it, think about how well you really know your food.
For further reading about irradiation:
What’s Wrong with Food Irradiation?
Comments of Consumers Union on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Docket No. 2005N-0272, “Irradiation in the Production, Processing and Handling of Food”
Irradiation: A Sneak Attack on School Lunches