Food irradiation is a process by which food is exposed to ionizing radiation to destroy microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, or insects that might be present in the food. One of the purposes for food irradiation is to prolong the shelf-life of food. It is also used to delay the ripening of fruits or the sprouting of vegetables.
The new study arose from a mysterious affliction of pregnant cats. A company testing the effects of irradiated food on growth and development reported that some cats fed such a diet developed severe neurological dysfunction, including movement disorders, vision loss and paralysis.
“After being on the diet for three to four months, the pregnant cats started to develop progressive neurological disease,” says Duncan, a professor of medical sciences at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.
Myelin is a fatty substance that forms a sheath for nerve fibers, known as axons, and facilitates the conduction of nerve signals. Its loss through disease causes impairment of sensation, movement, cognition and other functions, depending on which nerves are affected.
The afflicted cats were shown to have severe and widely distributed demyelination of the central nervous system. In cats removed from the diet, demyelinated axons slowly became remyelinated, but the restored myelin sheaths were still not as thick as healthy myelin.
In this report, the central point is that the cats recovered slowly from the “severe neurological dysfunctions” after they stopped eating irradiated food. The researchers totally disregarded the fact that irradiation caused the damage to begin with.