"The meat industry won approval Tuesday to zap beef with gamma rays to kill E. Coli and other harmful bacteria.
FDA declared that the process does not make the meat radioactive and doesn't trigger other changes affecting the taste, wholesomeness or nutritional content.
We think it is safe and we think it is appropriate said Dr. Michael Friedman, the acting FDA commissioner.
The radiation dosage levels set by FDA are millions of times the amount in a typical chest X-ray but "that isn't a valid comparison" said Pat Hansen, and FDA chemist who coordinated the review."
Good Grief! The "think tank" boys in the meat industry have even proposed the term "cold pasteurization" be used in place of irradiation.
Way back in September 1995 (Volume 1 Issue #6) we printed an article on food radiation. I've never done this before but I feel much of the information in that article must be repeated at this time. It's just too important to count on all our readers to have this back issue.
FDA policy has allowed most irradiated food to be sold to the public since 1963 without so much as a disclosure label. Surely it must be "safe" beyond any doubt or somebody would be screaming bloody murder by now. Yet the media is very, very silent about the whole subject.
Sorry folks, but it just isn't so.
If you want the full horror story about this process, I would suggest you read "The Food That Would Last Forever" by Dr. Gary Gibbs--an authority on food radiation.
It turns out that when you hit food with these enormous doses of gamma rays (usually from cobalt-80) you create molecules called "radiotoxines". The FDA calls them "radiolytic by-products" and classifies them into two categories. Known and Unknown.
The ‘known’ category includes such neat things as formaldehyde and benzene (yes, Charlie they are both considered carcinogens).
The ‘unknown’ category is described as "unique radiolytic products" which are chemical molecules that have never been characterized and are not found anywhere in nature. (Hello immune system--here’s something new you can play with!!).
Does it harm beneficial Nutrients? Of course. About 30% of Vitamin C is destroyed. Milk is known to lose 70% of Vitamin A, B1 and B2 when radiated. Vitamins E, K, the entire B group, amino acids and essential fatty acids, are all known to be adversely affected.
Worse yet it accelerates the growth of a particularly nasty mold called "aspergillus". This mold produces the most potent natural carcinogens , called "aflatoxins". One study, conducted by FDA itself in 1979, demonstrated that food radiation increases aflatoxin production by more than one-hundred-fold.
So what happens when this stuff is eaten ?
Animal studies are clear. When up to 35% of the lab-animal diet was radiated, feeding studies had to be abandoned because the animals died or were unable to eat. This fact is in FDA’s final report approving radiation.
I want to emphasize that these studies should have set off alarm bells all across the country. For example:
At the University of Illinois, the Department of Medicine fed radiated food to mice. Seventeen percent had to be killed or died because of respiratory problems so severe they couldn’t even move around their cages. They did autopsies. The hearts of the mice had enlarged to twice to three times normal, and in some cases had burst.
This is so often seen in animal feeding studies with radiated food that it’s commonly referred to as the "hemorrhagic syndrome."
Researchers at the Medical College of Virginia fed rats radiated beef. All the male rats died of hemorrhagic syndrome within 34 days. They investigated the effect of hormones by castrating a group of male rats and then feeding them with radiated beef. They all died within 63 days--as did all the female rats.
If you think the danger only arises from a heavy diet of radiated foods, think again. In another study at the University of Michigan, researchers radiated table sugar and then stored it for months. They then made up a white-blood-cell culture with less than 1% of the sucrose and a "control" culture medium with the same amount of non-radiated sugar.
They grew white-blood-cells, lymphocytes, in both culture media. The researchers reported that the radiated culture was "extremely toxic to lymphocytes." Cell division was reduced and the chromosomes were grossly damaged--to the point that they appeared to be shattered or pulverized!! Remember that the lymphocytes themselves were never radiated but only exposed to 1% of a radiated solution!!
Exposing lymphocytes to even a slightly radiated culture medium makes them look like they’d actually been radiated themselves. The control group (non-radiated culture) was perfectly fine.
So didn’t FDA know about these studies?? This is where it gets really unbelievable. They started with 441 studies, including the foregoing.
They "accepted" 226 for further review. They further narrowed their criteria and selected only 69 for in-depth review. Of these, FDA itself reported that 32 showed adverse effects and 37 suggested safety. Then, without explanation, they eliminated all but 5 of these 69 studies, including all 32 adverse ones, and announced they’d make a decision on those five alone. Results--stamp it approved!!
So to-day not only our herbs, but our fruits, vegetables, wheat, flour, spices, nuts, seeds, peas, pork and chicken are O.K. for radiation treatment. Now it's beef.
Don’t they have to label this stuff?? The FDA requires a label only if "whole food" is radiated and then sold unchanged. But if you process it in any way, or add any other ingredient to it, no label disclosure is required !!!
Gut instinct alone should tell any rational person to stay away from man made molecules never before found in nature. The potential harm from radiated foods is very real and very frightening.
I don't draw much comfort from a FDA commissioner that tells me he "thinks" it is safe or from a FDA chemist that may or may not be aware of all the studies pointing out valid concerns.
It’s difficult to obtain any accurate information as to how wide spread the application of radiation is at this time. Food companies are certainly not going to admit using it and the present laws are laughable. The only organization that I know of that is exclusively concerned with the issue is "Food and Water Inc."
If you choose to, they can be contacted at:
1-800-EAT-SAFE, or at
R.R. 1, Box 114, Depot Hill Road,
Marshfield, Vermont, 05658.
The beef industry has certainly used the E. Coli scare of the summer of 1997 to its advantage. Rather than cleaning up their act they have stampeded the FDA to approve a dubious process that the public will have no way of knowing what has been treated and what hasn't.
I know there are economics involved but who picks up the cost of the increased health care tab once irradiated beef hits the market? I suppose that any carcasses that have received an "overdose" will be sent to our friendly local rendering plant to be used for dog and cat food? ( see Poluted Food )
Maybe McDonalds will add a "nuclear waste" logo to their Golden Arches?
You've 'gotta' love what's going on in the food industry and wonder where it will all end.