of The Morning Call ponders the federal government decision to allow irradiation of some fresh produce, but points out one problem with the policy.  Go here for the complete column.  Darragh writes:

Three years ago, the FDA sent a letter to lettuce growers, packers, processors and shippers noting its ”serious concern” about 19 E. coli outbreaks involving lettuce and spinach since 1995, resulting in 409 illnesses and two deaths.

Irradiating lettuce and spinach, the FDA said, is important because consumers almost always eat lettuce and often eat spinach uncooked.

But even the FDA acknowledges that irradiating spinach and lettuce will reduce their vitamin content somewhat, particularly Vitamin A. However, since spinach is not a major source of vitamins in Americans’ nutritional intake, FDA concluded that irradiation will not hurt their overall diet.

Irradiating food creates a ”disincentive” for farms to adopt cleaner farming methods, added Bill Freese of the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. ”The way to get safe food is to clean up the filthy conditions at our factory farms,” he said.

In addition, irradiation doesn’t eliminate all bugs, including the bacterium that causes botulism, he noted.



  • Just like pasteurization, where you still end up with poop and puss in the final product, albeit denatured, irradiating produce is just another bandaid approach to food safety. Turning our farms into sterile war zones is not the correct solution either. How about looking at the source, which is stuffing grain down the gullets of grazing animals whose digestive systems are not made for diet of grain and food waste? Why is all the work being placed on the back of the produce industry while the feedlot & dairy industry get off scot free?
    Our food is already getting lower and lower in vitamins and minerals, thanks to conventional farming techniques (this has been scientifically proven). Do we really want to zap even more nutrition out of it to the point where we will all have to consume daily vitamin pills?

  • matt

    Whenever I discuss my distaste for irradated produce, most people seem to think I’m afraid of the lingering radiation.
    It’s not the radiation that scares me; it’s exactly what Bill Freese describes – the “disincentive” to clean up the act that made these systems look attractive to begin with.
    The tail is wagging the dog.

  • Simmon Hofstetter

    I loved the part of this post where C. botulinum spores were discussed as being resistant to irradiation…oh, wait, there was NO discussion with reference to the title of the post. The title is irrelevant. Please write on-topic, lest the readers adopt inaccurate notions. The blog is good- I don’t want to see it spiral into a chasm of practice that disseminates skewed information.
    @Rebecca T. of HonestMeat- bacterial spores are ubiquitous within soil. These forms of bacteria inevitably come into contact with food, regardless of what we’re feeding our cattle (I agree with you, however, that reforms need to be made across the pork, poultry, and beef industries. By and large it is an unsustainable industry under current land-use, feedstock distribution, and slaughter management practices).