You don’t smell it; you don’t taste it, but it’s approved as an additive by the FDA. It’s called irradiation and is used on fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, wheat, eggs, herbs, and spices. Irradiation is a “cold sterilization” process involving gamma rays from nuclear material, x-rays or high energy electrons. It has been used for many years to kill insects in wheat and flour and control microbial contamination of spices and seasonings, as well as to destroy parasites in meat and poultry but without taking its toll. By zapping food with ionizing radiation, free radicals (oxidants) are created. These free radicals frequently recombine to form stable compounds, some of which are known to be cancer causing. There have been no long-term human studies and almost no studies on children to support safety. Irradiation can damage vitamins A, C, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B6 and folic acid up to 80%, depending on the vitamin and ho long the foods are stored.

The FDA approved irradiation of meat in December of 1998 after millions of pounds of hamburger meat were recalled because it might have been contaminated with the deadly bacteria E. coli. It is estimated that as many as 9,000 deaths occur in America per year from spoiled food. Critics of irradiation state that irradiation is unnecessary because food safety would be ensured if food producers actually did their job the way they are supposed to. "Food irradiation is a pseudo-fix," said Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety in Washington, DC. "It's a way to try to come in and clean up problems that are created in the middle of the food production chain. I think it's clearly a disincentive to clean up the problems at the source." (Hedges, Stephen J., "Irradiation step doesn't quiet debate on FDA moves", Chicago Tribune, August 25, 2008).

All irradiated foods must be labeled using the “radura” symbol (a benign-looking flower within a broken circle) but only to the first purchaser which is usually a restaurant, school or manufacturer. Labeling laws also state that fruits and vegetables irradiated up to the FDA maximum can be labeled as ‘fresh’. Although organic foods cannot be irradiated, “natural” foods still can be. So the safest way to go is to by organic produce.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Alicia Armitstead is a licensed chiropractor in New York City. In her clinic, Healing Arts Chiropractor, she is dedicated to designing personal health improvement programs. Dr. Armitstead holds degrees from University of Bridgeport and the University of Bridgeport Chiropractic College in Connecticut. She is certified in Advanced Clinical Training of Nutrition Response TestingSM. Dr. Armitstead is continuing her education by working on her Masters in Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.