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Apr 12, 2008 03:02 PM

USDA scientists say irradiation could be key to food safety

I love the line that reads:

"Irradiation, which involves bombarding food with high-energy gamma or electron beams to disrupt the DNA of pathogens, has its supporters and critics. "

disrupt the DNA (ONLY) Of pathogens??? Gimme a break...

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  1. Why do I read these things? I will never buy another bag of bagged greens ... even organic ...

    "Before bagged leafy greens wind up on your plate, they are washed, often three times, in a potent chlorine bath."

    Gee. Does that happen in restaurants too?

    Actually I read about it because I heard about that study on the news. It seems the govt is trying to push irradiation.

    Ok ... so we are talking 90 percent safe vs. 99.9 percent safe using irradiation ... the long-term impact on people unknown.

    Also there are relatively small problems with e coli.

    I know this sounds obvious ... but just fix the problem that causes e coli in a minority of cases ... instead of irradiating our food ... which according to the article changes texture.

    It is amazing the human race has survived without irradiation. To be clear, that is sarcasm.

    5 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Friends who travel to India to live months a time tell me the natives have to soak their vegetables in water and iodine before they cook or eat it.

      Our cave dwelling forefathers didn't eat baby greens mass plucked from the field. The majority of people survive the current process just fine. Unfortunately at our level of development, a handful of deaths per year is unacceptable.

      Would the govt mandate fences around all produce to keep feral pigs out?? We can't even build fences to keep illegal immigrants out. How do we mandate these controls for produce grown overseas? It's a lot easier to irradiate all produce than it is to non-destructively test all produce.

      Ideally the marketplace would decide on its own. Just as we have organic produce why can't those who don't fear irradiated foods have their choice too?

      1. re: Minger

        I'm semi-ok with irradiated food if it is clearly labled as such ... however it is not. And then there are restaurants ... is McDonald's going to tell you that salad is irradiated? I'd bet not. How about the corner mom and pop.

        IMO, for the few people that hit the unluckly lottery food-wise ... they are just an offering to the food gods. Why risk the health of the majority for an unkonw process.

        People die from all sorts of things ... crossing the street ... driving ... should we eliminate streets and cars for the few? Life has risks.If 50 or even 75 percent of the population was at risk ... I'd reconsider ... but even then I'd try to fix the source of the problem first. Why not?

        1. re: rworange

          that's the implicit french attitude towards food isn't it? they enjoy their food and, for examples, won't pasteurize their cheese for the sake of a few lives. the culture has set their risk reward in the favor of naturally good food while we shade towards sterilization.

      2. re: rworange

        "Before bagged leafy greens wind up on your plate, they are washed, often three times, in a potent chlorine bath."

        "Gee. Does that happen in restaurants too?"

        Yep, to some extent it does. In one of the kitchens I worked in we were required to rinse all greens in a bath that "sanitized" them and kept the greens from browning before turning them into salads, etc. This wasn't a fast food place or chain but a high end privately owned steakhouse.

        I haven't encountered this in other kitchens I've worked in and I've never worked in fast food or a chain, but I'm willing to bet that since this chemical came from a familiar named restaurant supplier that there are any number of restaurants out there doing it.

        1. re: rworange

          < which according to the article changes texture> and who know what else!!!

        2. irradiation is supposed to be the cure-all for factory farm systems that jeopardize human health because they're cutting corners on sanitation. consumers don't want irradiated food, they want clean food systems. agricultural worker's rights groups have battled big ag resistance for decades to get fruit and veg pickers the most basic access to sanitation--portable toilets and handwashing stations in the fields. with irradiation, we could do without these biffies, saving big ag big bucks! i personally would rather pay an extra five cents a pound to know that the worker who picked my lettuce doesn't need to squat between the rows when nature calls. similarly, irradiation should also mean that nobody who handles food in restaurants should be required to wash their hands after using the toilet-- after all we can just run everyone's finished plate through an irradiation device right before service-- totally safe!

          govt tells us that irradiation can make up for a multitude of ills-- why not clean up the food system instead? consumers will continue to choose--and even prefer, foods that have some degree of unsafeness, like raw fish sushi and pink-middle burgers, and consumers continue to say that they don't care if the s*&t that's ground into their factory-farm burger is irradiated or not, they don't care to eat s&$t, thanks very much.

          3 Replies
          1. re: soupkitten

            Thanks soupkitten, for saving my tired fingers from saying much of the same.

            Good grief. Thing sare getting waaaay too complicated, eh?


            1. re: soupkitten

              Don't forget another big corp lobby component besides big ag: the "nukelar" ( as our beloved president says ) industry looking for ways to put to good use all that waste material. Better Salinas Valley than Yucca Mountain...

              1. re: soupkitten

                even better reasons for shopping the greenmarkets and buying directly from farmers as much as one possibly can!

              2. "disrupt the DNA (ONLY) Of pathogens??? Gimme a break..."

                DNA on its own can't cause any illness. You could eat a heaping bowl of DNA for breakfast each morning if you really wanted to. It's the proteins encoded by the DNA that cause illness, and those proteins can't be produced in a cell without an active cellular metabolism (like the dead cells in the food item being irradiated). The pathogens would be the only things effected by irradiation because they would be the only living, reproducing cells present and the disruption of their DNA destroys their ability to produce the proteins necessary to continue living.

                1. My main thought about irradiation is "What does it do to the vitamin content of the food?" Do vitamins breakdown on the molecular level from the gamma or electron bombardment?

                  Also, as someone has already mentioned, will irradiation be used in lieu of standard safety practices... in other words will the growers/producers slack off assuming irradiation will do it all.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: dave_c

                    we should let trust the swedes to do long term studies on the subject. they are the ones who found acrylamides in bread, cookies, crackers, etc, right??

                  2. I may be totally wrong here (hope so!), but I remember hearing/reading many years ago (15, 20?) that much of our food is already irradiated. It's just that there's no requirement to inform the consumer thus we don't know.

                    Does anyone know the truth about this?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: poptart

                      You can check some basic facts (and more) re. food irradiation in the link below: