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Kirk James Murphy, M.D. at firedoglake.com had this to say on the subject:
“Yesterday what remains of the FDA under the Bush regime opened the lead doors to allow Big Ag and Big Industrial Food to start irradiating the life out of the iceberg lettuce and spinach you eat. The FDA claims that nuking these leafy greens is required to keep us safe from the E. Coli and other fecal coliforms (nerdspeak for “shit germs”) found to have contaminated the food we bring home to eat. The Bushies, their moles in the Federal agencies that once protected us, and the corporatists they all serve are — as usual — lying through their coliform encrusted teeth. Our menus — and our choices — need not be collapsed down to the binary option of “nuked food vs poop food”. “Let them eat shit” is the GOP’s de facto public safety policy, but we don’t have to swallow it.”
Although this announcement only applies to fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach, other fresh produce, such as tomatoes or peppers, are included in the Grocery Manufacturers Association petition. The FDA says it is continuing to evaluate the use of irradiation in additional foods.
Irradiation of iceberg lettuce and spinach will be voluntary on the part of food processors. If whole foods have been irradiated, FDA requires that the label bear the radura symbol and the phrase “treated with radiation” or “treated by irradiation.” Yet, if irradiated ingredients are added to foods that have not been irradiated, no special labeling is required on retail packages.
The biggest problems with vegetables is caused by viruses not bacteria and irradiation is not going to kill a virus. For example, the Salmonella outbreak we had this year with tomatoes could not have been averted had the tomatoes been irradiated.
When food is irradiated, ionized radiation reacts with water in the food, causing the release of electrons and the formation of highly reactive free radicals. The free radicals interact with vitamins in ways that can alter and degrade their structure and/or activity. The extent to which vitamin loss occurs can vary based on a number of factors, including the type of food, temperature of irradiation, and availability of oxygen. Vitamin loss almost always increases with increasing doses of radiation.
The destruction of vitamins continues beyond the time of irradiation. Therefore, when irradiated food is stored, it will experience greater vitamin loss than the food that has not been irradiated. Cooking further accelerates vitamin destruction in irradiated food compared to non-irradiated food.
To understand how bad this is here is an example: A kiloGray (kGy) is the unit of measuring radiation unique to the process of food irradiation. In the United States, fruits and vegetables are irradiated with up to one kGy, which equals the radiation output of approximately 33 million chest X-rays. Fresh meat and poultry are irradiated with up to 4.5 kGy, which equal the radiation output of approximately 150 million chest X-rays.