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Is It Time to Accept Food Irradiation?

When it comes to ensuring that food enters the market carrying as few pathogens and insects as possible, the large majority of health, governmental and scholarly authorities seem to agree — food irradiation is an effective final safety measure.

radura-inside.jpg

In the face of the country’s worst outbreak of foodborne illness in more than 10 years, and after the devastating European E. coli epidemic this spring, interest in irradiation — a heat-free procedure that kills microorganisms in food through gamma, x-ray or electronic energy — continues to rise.

But while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been approving new types of irradiated food for sale since the 1960s, few food processors have taken the leap to irradiating their products, leaving consumers little opportunity to get familiar with the treatment. At the same time, producers see irradiation as a big risk when consumer acceptance appears so shaky. 

As a result, irradiation has fallen into a technological limbo, largely supported by the scientific community while going almost completely ignored by its intended end users. Whether through its additional costs, the misperception of it producing off-tastes or the general association of the word “radiation” with nuclear reactors and glowing skin, irradiation remains a niche treatment, used extensively on spices but nearly absent from meat and produce sections. 

Irradiation proponents see lack of education as the main obstacle in the way of greater public acceptance, saying that too few consumers understand the technology and the level of safety it adds to meat and fresh produce. 

“I think that more consumers would choose irradiated foods if they fully understood the process and the results so that they were comfortable with it,” said Joseph Sebranek, Ph.D., agriculture and life sciences professor at Iowa State University. “Part of the problem is that even though there is a lot of publicity about the need to improve food safety, the vast majority of consumers believe our food to already be very safe, and I think that they — subconsciously perhaps — don’t see a need for another process for safety.” 

As a safety measure, irradiation occurs at the end of the production chain, with packaged food or ready-to-ship produce treated with precise doses of radiation. The process does not use any heat, but produces an effect similar to cooking: Good doses kill at least 99.99 percent of microorganisms in the food without producing the “off-flavor” associated with imprecise doses. 

Sebranek argued that irradiation could have prevented Europe’s deadly E. coli outbreak and other outbreaks linked to fresh produce, because the treatment eliminates pathogens from fruits and vegetables while keeping their textures and chemistry intact.

And unlike chemical washes, irradiation kills organisms within the product, not just on the outside. 

But the use of irradiation as a last-line-of-defense bothers others, such as Carol Tucker-Foreman, director of the Consumer Federation of America’s Food Policy Institute and coiner of the phrase, “Irradiated poop won’t make you sick, but it’s still poop.” 

Tucker-Foreman said she and other irradiation opponents question the necessity of the technology when food makers should focus on improving sanitation standards at the beginning of the production chain. Many opponents use the “Band-aid” argument, suggesting irradiation offers the chance to zap away mistakes at the end of the chain instead of ensuring food starts safe and stays that way. 

Those in the irradiation industry call that claim unfair. 

Harlan Clemmons is the president of Sadex, a Sioux City, IA food irradiation facility and one of two companies in the United States to specialize in irradiating beef and other meat products. He said that his company requires all processors to manufacture food under a scientifically validated and verified Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan and that foods not appearing to meet that criteria or failing to provide the proof in paperwork are not treated at their facility. 

Sebranek, Tucker-Foreman and Clemmons all agree that no one will likely see more irradiated foods in marketplaces until customers start demanding them. The debate rests on whether or not they will, and whether or not the required label, the Radura will turn them away. 

“I believe there’s 10 to 15 percent of the public who will never buy irradiated food and 10 to 15 percent of the public who will always buy it if available,” Clemmons said. “The rest don’t understand what irradiation is, and if provided the information, I believe the American consumer would accept it in most cases.” 

Clemmons said that two-thirds of the foods Sadex irradiates are for pets, with beef and some produce rounding out the remaining third. He also cited a number of commonly used products that are sterilized with irradiation before human contact: Bandages, eye contact solution, cotton balls, diapers, all varieties of medical equipment. 

“Be realistic: You wouldn’t think twice about using any of those products,” Clemmons said. 

Currently, irradiated beef accounts for less than one-tenth of one percent of the beef market. Not only does poor public perception factor into the low availability, but the simple lack of infrastructure makes it a big logistical hurdle: For a processor to even have the option of selling irradiated beef, they need to send it either through Sadex in Iowa or the other facility in Florida, adding shipping costs onto the treatment’s price tag. 

Tucker-Foreman said that irradiation has too many downsides to ever capture a large share of the market, and that the scientific community’s focus on irradiation is potentially taking valuable attention away from other improvements to the food system. 

“The food industry has the option to use irradiation right now if they want to,” she said. “The fact is they’re not using it right now, and not just because they have to label it, but because it costs more and if you don’t do it with great precision, you get meat that doesn’t taste very good.” 

After more than a decade in the irradiation business, Clemmons said he has seen a constant, gradual increase each year in the amount of irradiated beef Americans eat. Until it becomes more sought-out, however, he said he will not see it making dramatic leaps in availability. 

“When I look at the big picture, we’re talking about prevention,” he said. “We want to reduce recalls. We have people getting sick, dying, getting debilitating diseases from foodborne pathogens that irradiation can help prevent. I don’t want to call it the silver bullet, but it is a bullet in the arsenal of available interventions.”

© Food Safety News
  • Karen McGuigan

    Has anyone looked into the increase in food born illnesses and how that might correlate to the genetically altered food increase.

  • Tony Corbo

    On the issue of labeling, both FDA and USDA have done focus group research on the issue of food irradiation labeling. I have attached a link to a 2002 report to Congress filed by FDA that indicates that consumers are comfortable with the current labeling requirements for irradiated foods. The USDA focus group research also found that consumers would like irradiated foods to be explicitly labeled as such.
    http://www.citizen.org/documents/FDAReportonFoodIrradiation.pdf

  • jmunsell

    Carol Tucker Foreman is precisely correct when she stated “Irradiated poop won’t make you sick, but it’s still poop”. A common concern amongst all folks is that the occasional unscrupulous meat plant operator will perceive irradiation as the ultimate panacea to kill all pathogens, thereby justifying his desire to leave more fecal bacteria on the raw meat (saving him labor costs) knowing that the downstream irradiation step will kill all bacteria. Therefore, this operator will intentionally allow pathogens to remain on the raw meat and shift all Prevention downstream to the final step, which is irradiation.
    USDA/FSIS has the opportunity to address such faulty thinking in advance, and require meat slaughter plants to fully utilize Preventative measures at the beginning of meat processing, rather than postpone Prevention to the end of processing, that is, irradiation of finished product.
    For starters, both FSIS and the industry must sign on to an agreement that states that HACCP Plans must continue to accept the responsibility to implement Prevention at the SOURCE, which is the kill floor. This means that the meat industry must admit that irradiation is NOT a replacement for existing HACCP Plans, but that irradiation is but another tool in its portfolio of interventions.
    Secondly, and this is a major problem, FSIS must publicly and specifically state that E.coli O157:H7 (and the new Big Six) are adulterants on intact meat, including on carcasses and on boxed beef. The fact that FSIS disagrees with me on this reveals that the agency overtly authorizes the packers to knowingly ship into commerce intact cuts (carcasses & boxed beef) which are “merely” surface-contaminated with adulterants. When gamma ray irradiation of carcasses and intact cuts is implemented, all pathogens will die. Voila! This magic cure then justifies the agency’s claim that E.coli are not adulterants on intact cuts, because those pathogens are killed by gamma ray irradiation. The first step FSIS must take is to declare that E.coli O157:H7 and the Big Six are adulterants in every phase of meat processing, after the kill floor. Once a carcass is pushed into the chill cooler, E.coli will be classified as adulterants. Period. Don’t hold your breath waiting for FSIS to admit this obvious truth.
    Thirdly, FSIS should commence testing of carcasses at slaughter plants. To its credit, FSIS will commence testing of trim at slaughter plants in March, 2012. And yes, the agency believes that boneless trim which harbors E.coli O157:H7 and the Big Six is adulterated meat. Well, where did this adulterated trim come from? Answer: from carcasses! And FSIS is fully cognizant of this fact. If we truly want the SOURCE to implement meaningful corrective actions to prevent recurrences, we need to precisely identify which slaughter plants have defective kill floor dressing protocol, and focus the need for corrective actions, AND agency enforcement actions, at those noncompliant plants.
    Along this line, adverse lab results from carcass testing should result in temporary, but thorough subsequent testing at every stage at the kill floor. Most likely, there will be one or more specific individual steps on the kill floor which are defective, unwittingly depositing fecal bacteria on the carcass. Ultimately, we must determine exactly where on the kill floor are these noncompliances occuring.
    Fourthly, FSIS must issue Validation guidelines which require the source slaughter plants to validate (or prove) that their kill floor interventions consistently produce safe meat. FSIS is loathe to focus Validation efforts at the SOURCE. The agency’s initial foray into Validation was its March 19, 2010 Validation Guideline letter mailed to nine meat industry associations. The letter made several references to the need of downstream, further processing plants to test incoming meat (purchased from source slaughter providers) for the presence of pathogens. Examples: “….food safety hazard occurring in the raw materials that the establishment typically (? typically ? ) receives”. Another: “…to reduce the level of pathogens asociated with the raw materials received at the establishment”. Even if downstream plants tested all incoming meat, and experienced recurring positives. So what? First of all, FSIS would conclude that these further processing plants have failures in their HACCP Plans, because they allowed adulterated meat onto their premises. The agency used such nefarious enforcement actions at my plant, and at numerous others this century. Welcome to USDA-style HACCP folks. And if these small, downstream further processing plants would forward the adverse lab test results back to their source slaughter providers, these processing plants might be black listed by suppliers, who don’t want their downstream customers testing incoming meat.
    Lastly, why should FSIS perform testing of carcasses? Shouldn’t the industry absorb the cost of testing? Let me be candid here: FSIS needs to control access to all lab results in a real-time basis. If the industry conducted all testing, and controlled access to lab reports, well, I’m not sure public health imperatives would be maximized by such an arrangement. ConAgra’s 19.1 million lb recall in 2002 revealed that FSIS did not have access to company-conducted test results. Granted, the agency has since issued Notices delineating that FSIS DOES have access to all company-conducted test results. Consider the agency’s recent press release of Recall # 075-2011, issued on Sept 23 for 40,000# ground beef possibly contaminated with E.coli O157:H7. The meat had been produced on Sept 9, two weeks earlier, not very time sensitive. The FSIS press release included the following statement: “The problem may have occurred as a result of a sample tracking error that allowed the product in question to be inadvertantly shipped into commerce”. I well remember the nervous apprehension I experienced every time I awaited lab test results, and the immediate relief when informed of good lab conclusions. Makes me wonder what a “sample tracking error” means? Whatever transpired is a black eye for our industry. If FSIS maintained full control of testing and lab results, the agency should be able to respond expeditiously to promote public health imperatives.
    In conclusion, irradiation has the ability to improve the goal of safe food, but only when the above issues have been addressed and resolved by FSIS, which currently avoids all the above suggestions. FSIS is deadset on being semi-retired at the large source slaughter plants, which is the true SOURCE of enteric bacteria. USDA-style HACCP has provided the agency justification for its current “Hands Off” non-involvement role at the large source slaughter plants. Therefore, while irradiation offers potential benefits, the benefits will be greatly minimized until FSIS rethinks its role in the meat industry. Frankly, USDA-style HACCP direly needs a midstream change in direction, essentially a reassessment followed by corrective actions to prevent recurrences. These actions must initially commence at FSIS, which is opposed to such heresy.
    John Munsell

  • Peter Hurley

    I have been looking forward to the use of irradiation since I first learned about it almost two decades ago. But the ill-informed seem to drive the popular culture. Maybe before I die it will happen.

  • http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org Jaydee Hanson

    The recent Cargill turkey recalls point out what can happen when the companies themselves start testing their products for pathogens before they leave the plant. Cargill had to recall some 36 million pounds of ground turkey in August. After being threatened with lawsuits from victims, Cargill started testing its product before they leave its plant. The recently stopped shipment of some 180,000 pounds of turkey with salmonella before it got to consumers. The next step is to make sure that its flocks are salmonella free. European poultry producers have figured out how to do this. It is time the US producers follow suit. It is not time for them just to irradiate their dirty meat.
    Jaydee Hanson, Center for Food Safety, Washington DC

  • Michael T. Osterholm

    This article gives Carol another pass at the real facts. Her old line of “irradiated poop” has to be challenged. We will never, ever get microscopic fecal contamination completely out of meat and poultry products; this is the same level of contamination that is causing serious foodborne illnesses.
    Think about this…in human “clean surgeries” in our hospitals today we still run a 2% postsurgical site infection rate. If all the highly trained medical professionals, infection control standards and practices in a highly disinfected environment and under controlled conditions can’t do better than that, how can you disembowel and dehide/defeather an animal and not have microscopic (i.e. nonvisible) contamination on a carcass is beyond me.
    Carol’s continued argument is only valid for true malpractice in the slaughter practice. Otherwise her cute-term use of “irradiated poop” is contributing to unnecessary illnesses and deaths resulting from contaminated meat and poultry. Because she is seen as a food safety advocate she is consistently given a free pass on her statements. That is just wrong…and is demonstrated again in this article.
    Her position on irradiation is as deadly as producers/processors who do not use state-of-the-art food safety practices. We need to call her and other “food safety advocates” who make similar statements on their anti-food safety/anti-science position. Their statements have real public health consequences!

  • http://www.marlerclark.com bill marler

    I agree with Mike on this one.

  • John Munsell

    Carol Tucker Foreman is precisely correct when she stated “Irradiated poop won’t make you sick, but it’s still poop”. A common concern amongst all folks is that the occasional unscrupulous meat plant operator will perceive irradiation as the ultimate panacea to kill all pathogens, thereby justifying his desire to leave more fecal bacteria on the raw meat (saving him labor costs) knowing that the downstream irradiation step will kill all bacteria. Therefore, this operator will intentionally allow pathogens to remain on the raw meat and shift all Prevention downstream to the final step, which is irradiation.
    USDA/FSIS has the opportunity to address such faulty thinking in advance, and require meat slaughter plants to fully utilize Preventative measures at the beginning of meat processing, rather than postpone Prevention to the end of processing, that is, irradiation of finished product.
    For starters, both FSIS and the industry must sign on to an agreement that states that HACCP Plans must continue to accept the responsibility to implement Prevention at the SOURCE, which is the kill floor. This means that the meat industry must admit that irradiation is NOT a replacement for existing HACCP Plans, but that irradiation is but another tool in its portfolio of interventions.
    Secondly, and this is a major problem, FSIS must publicly and specifically state that E.coli O157:H7 (and the new Big Six) are adulterants on intact meat, including on carcasses and on boxed beef. The fact that FSIS disagrees with me on this reveals that the agency overtly authorizes the packers to knowingly ship into commerce intact cuts (carcasses & boxed beef) which are “merely” surface-contaminated with adulterants. When gamma ray irradiation of carcasses and intact cuts is implemented, all pathogens will die. Voila! This magic cure then justifies the agency’s claim that E.coli are not adulterants on intact cuts, because those pathogens are killed by gamma ray irradiation. The first step FSIS must take is to declare that E.coli O157:H7 and the Big Six are adulterants in every phase of meat processing, after the kill floor. Once a carcass is pushed into the chill cooler, E.coli will be classified as adulterants. Period. Don’t hold your breath waiting for FSIS to admit this obvious truth.
    Thirdly, FSIS should commence testing of carcasses at slaughter plants. To its credit, FSIS will commence testing of trim at slaughter plants in March, 2012. And yes, the agency believes that boneless trim which harbors E.coli O157:H7 and the Big Six is adulterated meat. Well, where did this adulterated trim come from? Answer: from carcasses! And FSIS is fully cognizant of this fact. If we truly want the SOURCE to implement meaningful corrective actions to prevent recurrences, we need to precisely identify which slaughter plants have defective kill floor dressing protocol, and focus the need for corrective actions, AND agency enforcement actions, at those noncompliant plants.
    Along this line, adverse lab results from carcass testing should result in temporary, but thorough subsequent testing at every stage at the kill floor. Most likely, there will be one or more specific individual steps on the kill floor which are defective, unwittingly depositing fecal bacteria on the carcass. Ultimately, we must determine exactly where on the kill floor are these noncompliances occuring.
    Fourthly, FSIS must issue Validation guidelines which require the source slaughter plants to validate (or prove) that their kill floor interventions consistently produce safe meat. FSIS is loathe to focus Validation efforts at the SOURCE. The agency’s initial foray into Validation was its March 19, 2010 Validation Guideline letter mailed to nine meat industry associations. The letter made several references to the need of downstream, further processing plants to test incoming meat (purchased from source slaughter providers) for the presence of pathogens. Examples: “….food safety hazard occurring in the raw materials that the establishment typically (? typically ? ) receives”. Another: “…to reduce the level of pathogens asociated with the raw materials received at the establishment”. Even if downstream plants tested all incoming meat, and experienced recurring positives. So what? First of all, FSIS would conclude that these further processing plants have failures in their HACCP Plans, because they allowed adulterated meat onto their premises. The agency used such nefarious enforcement actions at my plant, and at numerous others this century. Welcome to USDA-style HACCP folks. And if these small, downstream further processing plants would forward the adverse lab test results back to their source slaughter providers, these processing plants might be black listed by suppliers, who don’t want their downstream customers testing incoming meat.
    Lastly, why should FSIS perform testing of carcasses? Shouldn’t the industry absorb the cost of testing? Let me be candid here: FSIS needs to control access to all lab results in a real-time basis. If the industry conducted all testing, and controlled access to lab reports, well, I’m not sure public health imperatives would be maximized by such an arrangement. ConAgra’s 19.1 million lb recall in 2002 revealed that FSIS did not have access to company-conducted test results. Granted, the agency has since issued Notices delineating that FSIS DOES have access to all company-conducted test results. Consider the agency’s recent press release of Recall # 075-2011, issued on Sept 23 for 40,000# ground beef possibly contaminated with E.coli O157:H7. The meat had been produced on Sept 9, two weeks earlier, not very time sensitive. The FSIS press release included the following statement: “The problem may have occurred as a result of a sample tracking error that allowed the product in question to be inadvertantly shipped into commerce”. I well remember the nervous apprehension I experienced every time I awaited lab test results, and the immediate relief when informed of good lab conclusions. Makes me wonder what a “sample tracking error” means? Whatever transpired is a black eye for our industry. If FSIS maintained full control of testing and lab results, the agency should be able to respond expeditiously to promote public health imperatives.
    In conclusion, irradiation has the ability to improve the goal of safe food, but only when the above issues have been addressed and resolved by FSIS, which currently avoids all the above suggestions. FSIS is deadset on being semi-retired at the large source slaughter plants, which is the true SOURCE of enteric bacteria. USDA-style HACCP has provided the agency justification for its current “Hands Off” non-involvement role at the large source slaughter plants. Therefore, while irradiation offers potential benefits, the benefits will be greatly minimized until FSIS rethinks its role in the meat industry. Frankly, USDA-style HACCP direly needs a midstream change in direction, essentially a reassessment followed by corrective actions to prevent recurrences. These actions must initially commence at FSIS, which is opposed to such heresy.
    John Munsell

  • jmunsell

    Call it irradiated poop, fecal bacteria, manure residue, or whatever. The bottom line is that as long as FSIS knowingly allows the source slaughter plants to ship into commerce intact cuts which are surface-contaminated with E.coli O157:H7, and irradiation is implemented, our industry will be tempted (to say it mildly) to lessen our commitment to producing safe food, because we know that our product will be exposed to irradiation downstream. I personally favor irradiation, but in the absence of changes in agency policies and attitudes, irradiation will short circuit pathogen intervention success at the source. John Munsell

  • John Munsell

    Call it irradiated poop, fecal bacteria, manure residue, or whatever. The bottom line is that as long as FSIS knowingly allows the source slaughter plants to ship into commerce intact cuts which are surface-contaminated with E.coli O157:H7, and irradiation is implemented, our industry will be tempted (to say it mildly) to lessen our commitment to producing safe food, because we know that our product will be exposed to irradiation downstream. I personally favor irradiation, but in the absence of changes in agency policies and attitudes, irradiation will short circuit pathogen intervention success at the source. John Munsell

  • Steve

    Acceptance of Food Irradiation is the tacit admission of the complete failure of the toxic nature of the Industrial Food supply.
    It all sounds so simple — just introduce a kill-step and all our food will be magically safe! But as with numerous industrial ag and food magic bullet technologies foisted on an unaware public (pesticides, GMOs, transfats, etc etc) — be carefully what you wish for because they come back around and shoot you in the gut…
    It’ll take Big Bucks, for starters. Industry would have to build at least 80 multi-million dollar irradiation facilities just to handle the US beef-burger supply. Supermarket estimates are this will add 50 cents to a buck a pound for irradiated ground beef products. Then there’s Cargill’s ground turkey, prepared meats and on through produce and the rest of the food supply — what a bonanza for the big food corporations who would love to jump in with this lucrative new product line!
    Contrary to industry good news reports, Irradiation has numerous “side-effects” on food quality — affecting aroma, flavor and texture and destroying vitamins, protein, essential fatty acids and a long list of other nutrients. Studies show up to 80% of vitamin A destroyed in eggs and half the beta carotene in orange juice.
    And while Irradiation may reduce the number of bacteria in raw products it does not kill all of it. For a sufficient dose in the handling/distribution e on spinach, for example, the resulting glop would be inedible. And without the presence of protective beneficial bacteria, the irradiated food may also become very easily re-colonized with virulent microbes anytime during the handling/distribution/marketing/cooking phases. For fresh produce with a short shelf life this also requires extra time, handling and transportation to irradiation hubs, cutting into freshness.
    While proponents are calling this a slam-dunk, there’s scant healthy safety studies on irradiated food — turning the public once again into Guinea pigs in an uncontrolled large-scale experiment. Experiments on lab animals fed irradiated food reveal cancer, tumors and premature death as well as stillbirths, mutations, organ damage, immune system failure and birth defects.
    And then there’s all that irradiated poop. With a supposed “kill-step” present even present efforts could well be short-cutted — masking filthy industrial conditions and encouraging improper handling all up and down the line. Consumers might also let down their guard.
    For all these reasons, the result of a large scale food irradiation system could easily be more sickness and deaths, not less. And it’ll be really interesting to see what new virulent stains emerge in resistance to the process. Welcome to the Brave New World of super-pathogens, all with a smiley radura symbol for comfort…

  • Greg

    ”Is It Time to Accept Food Irradiation?”
    HELL NO!
    IT IS WAY PAST TIME!

  • http://davids-home-now.blogspot.com David Thomas

    “to meet that criteria”
    To meet those criteria or to meet that criterion, but never to meet that criteria.

  • http://davids-home-now.blogspot.com David Thomas

    Why can’t food be prepared with all the precautions now in place and some be additionally irradiated but not the rest? Those involved with the initial stage would not know which was to be irradiated. That way no food would be handled carelessly, with poop left on, depending on the final sterilization.

  • http://dv82xl.blogspot.com/ DV82XL

    The argument that irradiation would lead to a drop in other standards is somewhat spurious. Currently in the absence of this treatment people become sick and some die. Is the bases of your argument that these deaths must continue to act as a goad on the industry to stay clean?
    Frankly it would seem that the problem already exists, and the food processing industry has a growing problem bringing it under control using standard techniques. Implying that further deaths are needed to motivate them to do a better job seems at best putting the cart before the hourse

  • http://www.jimrehs.net Jim Schmidt

    Don’t tell me. Once we get this there is going to be a raw meat and poultry movement that will claim only eating meat and poultry uncooked/raw without any bacterial kill steps is the only way to go. That to irradiate meats will be taking their rights away. This irradiation is killing “good bugs” that only in a raw untreated state can the product miraculously cure all disease I’m sure will be one of the claims.
    How about since I can’t get a 100% compliance of food workers washing hands that we just give up on that also? What’s a little more fecal matter. Let’s just take out the soap dispensers. Come on people, do we really need to go backwards? There is a reason for multiple steps in the entire chain, adding one more is the right thing to do.

  • Shelly Wallingford

    Irradiation is not a silver bullet to food safety, just another piece in a complicated puzzle. Just because another food safety practice is put in place doesn’t mean that industry or regulators will ignore other food safety precautions. This reminds me of two famous quotes. You are only as strong as the weakest link and in an outbreak usually several food safety practices failed. Do we really need more people to die before we consider adding irradiation steps to food safety.

  • Steve

    The problem is, with all the fail-safe methods that are already in place — HAACP, GAPs, LGMA and numerous food audit schemes in the marketplace — together with all kinds of food cleansing technologies — there’s a consistently high health injury and death rate that is part and parcel of our food system.
    A big part of this is due to the inherent risks built into our industrialized food system: centralized co-mingling of product (ground beef, turkey, fresh-cut greens, etc) with high potential for cross-contamination; nationwide shipping, distribution and handling so one contamination event affects multiple eaters in multiple states; a profit model motive that constantly seeks to cut costs and quality for increased quantity; etc.
    There’s also a full list of industrialized food production practices, inputs and additives — pesticides, food processing chemicals, GMOs, factory farm pollution, antibiotic feed additives, worker poisoning, etc. — that don’t even get considered under the food safety category but affect our health directly and through the environment. In reality, the injury and death toll from our food system is Much higher than reported by CDC. We don’t hear much from food safety advocates trying to clear That up.
    Therefore, in this context food irradiation IS another stab at a silver bullet — trying to control problems earlier technologies and market maneuvers created in the first place. Even proponents agree that food irradiation doesn’t come cheap, nor is it fully effective. And advocates like to ignore that the health altering implications are minimally researched.
    Just because you put in another (supposed) kill step — it doesn’t mean you end up with a safe product. Those peanuts were roasted, exonerating the farmers — but dangerous processing conditions then rippled throughout the food system affecting everything from peanut butter to pet food…
    But one thing we do know is that consumers reject irradiation of their food and the marketers don’t want any part of it, unless it’s unlabeled like GMOs… So, is food irradiation going to become a top-down governmental mandate? That’ll go over well.

  • allan stirling

    As long as the current wordage is utilized and promoted/labelled, etc “irradiation” it will inherently conjure up thoughts of a product zapped with energy and it will be unpopular. Education is key-for sure!!
    It begs the questions whether consumers really know that other consumables like diapers, cotton balls, contact eye solutions are zapped with low level irradiation doses? So where is the labeling on these products. I have yet to come across it, are we failing to provide minimal amounts of labeling or not on these products?

  • Arthur Schumaker

    I think irradiation is a dumb way to fix an even dumber problem. America seems to love the quick fix instead of the proactive long term one. There is no panacea for greed.

  • Jason

    To those commenters who cite USDA and FDA as proof that everything is A-OK, consider the fact that there’s a REVOLVING DOOR between the factory-food industry–large companies like Monsanto–and those very federal agencies that are in bed with them. Many of the top directors are former industry executives. It’s the businesses that write the government policies and write the checks to the politicians… I wouldn’t believe anything that the USDA and FDA claim regarding the safety of irradiating food. They are not independent at all.

  • gerard

    “to meet that criteria”
    To meat those criteria or to meat that criterion, but never to meet that criteria.

  • Shelley Estes

    Please irradiate yourself before you irradiate and kill my food. See how you like it, that is how I FEEL.

  • LeAnn

    OK, nothing is changed with irradiated meat – then WHY won’t my fresh meat-loving cats go anywhere near it?

  • Magnus

    Give Canyon Creek Ranch “treats” to your dog and find out for yourself (no, don’t really do that but why don’t you then go and ask a pet owner their “treats” have killed instead. Lucky for all of you, I’m one). Right there on the back of their packaging it has the Radura symbol alongside “Treated by Irradiation for Freshness & Health”. I would include my own picture of this if I were permitted but I am not and so you will simply have to trust me. I deeply regret that none of us noticed it until the aftermath. The kidney failure set in first (but which later corrected itself as soon as we stopped giving these “treats” to her. Blood results don’t lie, it was regressing and remarkably fast) but the real damage was the permanent enlarging of her heart as a direct result of the near-kidney failure. By the time she died (it took six months, the last four we’d stopped giving them to her) her heart was four times larger. Large enough to begin pressing against her lungs and trachea (she was a chihuahua). The only symptom for a time had been a ‘cough’. The only reason she lasted that long is because she loved us and was too stubborn to die until she absolutely just couldn’t fight these things anymore (if you knew her, you would understand). She ultimately gave in surrounded by her family, of a massive pleural effusion the night of 9/19/2012. I had noticed her gums were completely blue twenty minutes before this so we at least all had the opportunity to spend some time and say goodby, and to help her go (there was no point trying to rush her to the emergency vet. I knew it wouldn’t take long). She lost consciousness not long after that and her breathing slowed, while her lungs filled up and she started foaming of the mouth and nose. She blessedly wasn’t in any pain and it was about four minutes until she was gone. But we would never have known why unless I had taken the initiative to inspect the “treats” bag four months earlier. The above is precisely what I saw and what happened to the letter and, God as my witness, have accounted fully and in nothing but the truth. “Food Irradiation” killed our dog. “Food Irradiation” is going to kill people next, if Codex Alimentarius and all of the world’s government’s “safety-checking agencies” have their way. Do NOT let this happen. Fight it, for all of our sakes.