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Food Irradiation


ChefSwartz
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It means that we can return to growing and shipping HEIRLOOM tomatoes and fruits that have more flavor because they will not need the special handling and growers will not have to grow the tasteless, but nice-looking tomatoes that can be shipped across country and arrive at maket looking good but with no taste.

Now anyone who wants to argue about how irradiation won't make any difference can settle for the tasteless stuff that is now available.

<snip> 

Many of the nut cases who are clamoring against it are the same ones who are against children being vaccinated for diseases.  Consider the source!

I'm a nutcase who thinks it may well be safe but doesn't neccessarily think it is a good idea. Our food supply is already quite safe. If we are talking about cutting down on waste, can't some of that savings be used to go to labelling food that is irradiated. That way, I get to vote with my wallet whether I think it is a good idea or not (and I'm sure I would be in the minority). I am willing to pay more for 'HEIRLOOM' tomatoes, potatoes, beans, etc that are produced locally by small-scale farms to provide support to the once thriving rural economy. This is all sounding very much like the rBGH hoopla of years ago...I was on the losing side of that labelling battle as well.

Oh, and I'm all in favor of immunization of children and pets.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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My objection is it seems like it will give the corporate food chain free reign to do whatever they want, knowing they can just zap it in the end.

They're already doing that without the benfit of irradiation at the end. I once spent a summer as a laborer on a tomato ranch. Our field were 1/2 mile wide and 1/2 mile long. Do you really think all the stoop laborers and cultivator drivers were going somewhere off the field to a porta-potty when they needed to relieve themselves? They didn'tdo it then and I suspect they don't do it now.

In the big picture I accept the fact that most food products, particularly those coming through the agri-business food chain (our tomatoes went directly to a Contadina cannery), may be suspect. I try to eat as healthy a diet as I'm able to without major incovenience and try to avoid heavily process foods but I end up buying plenty of mainstream mass market priced groceries items like most folks do.

If irradiation will improve the safety and longevity of these food producs and can do so safely without polluting the environment then I'm all for it.

I don't recall seeing it mentioned yet in this thread but it's my recollection that many spices fall into a different food consumption labeling category under FDA standards and have been getting irradiated for quite a few years now - with very little publicity about that fact.

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My objection is it seems like it will give the corporate food chain free reign to do whatever they want, knowing they can just zap it in the end.

I don't recall seeing it mentioned yet in this thread but it's myrecollection that many spices fall into a different food consumption labeling category under FDA standards and have been getting irradiated for quite a few years now - with very little publicity about that fact.

You are 100% correct. Most spices sold by the major traders are indeed irradiated. This is especially desirable in mixes containing seeds and etc.

The Salad Seasoning mix sold by McCormick, at one time had an expiration date because they knew that after a time bugs would hatch in the mixture.

The bottles no longer have an expiration date featured prominately on the label.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I would like to see more food available nuked and properly labelled. I think some potatoes are processed this way, but I don't see it on the labels. Some will grow, and some won't.

Pig Ears for my dog have been irradiated for several years now, and the symbol is on the package but you really have to look for it. It is black on dark green, and not a familar symbol. Dogs seem to like them, and it avoids the salmonella problem we use to get with this product.

To me the ideal fresh food to be irradiated would be fish, as it starts to decay as soon as it hits the deck. I would like to get two or three more useful days out of a dressed fish, flown in from the ocean or lakes. Is there any activity in this area?

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spices have been irradiated for a LONG TIME, as well as many other foods, mainly for the space program.

My question is , if the process is supposed to extend shelf life and make food safer why does it cost more for the product?(7-10 cents)

Also, how do these newly approved methods cut down on over-production? The problem with most of it is they cant get rid of before it goes bad. It can save roughly 30 million lbs. of meat each year because of pathogens, but what about the fresh stuff? Isnt the surplus the problem there?

The complexity of flavor is a token of durable appreciation. Each Time you taste it, each time it's a different story, but each time it's not so different." Paul Verlaine

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i've done some reporting on it, but i am far from expert. as i understand it, there are really two main objections that seem to have some credence. the first is that we americans still don't seem to have a good way of disposing of spent radioactive materials, and that this would create far more. the other, and more to the point as far as i'm concerned, is that the food industry resists the idea of any kind of package labeling disclosing that the food was treated. it does seem to me that if they're going to do it, they should give consumers the right to choose (but then, i'm so naive, i think all food should also come with country of origin labels, too).

Russ, I am quoting this because I somehow think everyone else here doesn't dare to address it.

For my own personal curiosity, I would love to know if the Other White Dr. Kinsey (heh) works for a corporation. Or, in fact, what his/her affiliations are. I don't accept "scientist" automatically, any more than I accept that so-called news pieces from our government (in its collective totality) are produced from independent media.

I am with many slow-minded simpletons on this: the people who swear irradiation is harmless are the same people who seem to have lied on multiple occasions in the past about the safety of products. Think "DDT." The industry developers of the technique, and the government regulators (the FDA), that is.

Everything to do with radiation is fraught with danger, there is a huge red blaring icon that warns you BE WARNED OF RADIATION! But all of a sudden, on irradiated food, nothing? The food industry protests! HELLO?

Pul-LEASE.

And hey, how about that word, "irradiated"? Doesn't it sound nice and pleasant? It should simply say RADIATION.

I ain't buyin' it. And I doubt my farming buddies will, either. They're pretty damn smart, and I think I'll get back to you with what they say. Sound bytes, uncoached, will be my currency.

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For my own personal curiosity, I would love to know if the Other White Dr. Kinsey (heh) works for a corporation. Or, in fact, what his/her affiliations are. I don't accept "scientist" automatically, any more than I accept that so-called news pieces from our government (in its collective totality) are produced from independent media.

Without giving you her entire CV, I can tell you that Dr. Berma M. Kinsey, otherwise known to me as "mom," has never worked for a "corporation" -- unless you count universities as corporations. IIRC she has been a teacher and researcher throughout her career, having worked places like Harvard School of Medicine, Northeastern University, Baylor College of Medicine, and Rice University. Over the years she has worked extensively with radiation. I'm sure you can look her up in the relevant journals.

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I am with many slow-minded simpletons on this: the people who swear irradiation is harmless are the same people who seem to have lied on multiple occasions in the past about the safety of products. Think "DDT." The industry developers of the technique, and the government regulators (the FDA), that is.

Everything to do with radiation is fraught with danger, there is a huge red blaring icon that warns you BE WARNED OF RADIATION! But all of a sudden, on irradiated food, nothing? The food industry protests! HELLO?

Pul-LEASE.

And hey, how about that word, "irradiated"? Doesn't it sound nice and pleasant? It should simply say RADIATION.

I ain't buyin' it. And I doubt my farming buddies will, either. They're pretty damn smart, and I think I'll get back to you with what they say. Sound bytes, uncoached, will be my currency.

I'm sorry that scientists have such a bad reputation in your mind. In this case, when we say irradiated foods can cause no harm, we genuinely mean it not in the "we don't expect it to cause harm" fashion. But in the "If it did indeed cause harm via radiation, then we would need to re-write virtually every rule in physics" fashion.

Irradiated food doesn't have anything to DO with radiation. To make an analogy, irradiating something is like shooting bullets at it. Radiation is like the gun. If you started shooting bullets at something, left it alone for a while, and then all of a sudden, it started spontaneously shooting bullets, thats about as likely as irradiated foods being radioactive.

Having said that, I do think there are some legitimate claims against irradiation, some of which have been brought up. Another one I think hasn't been brought up is that over-irradiation could compromise our immune system by not giving it enough bugs to fight. By overrelying on irradiated foods, our immune systems become more fragile and what were once relatively benign bugs could floor us a lot harder.

PS: I am a guy.

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This brings up a good argument against the widespread use of labeling for irradiated foods, namely that the general public has very little understanding of what "irradiated" means, tends to confuse it with "nuclear radiation," and tends to believe that irradiated foods become radioactive and that the irradiation process causes nuclear waste. None of these things are true. In fact, the X-ray and electron beam irradiators used today are non-nuclear.

It is not the case, by the way, that the only positive benefit of irradiation is increases shelf life. We're already doing things to increase shelf life, but irradiation can be used instead of fumigants such as methyl bromide. In addition, irradiation could help to prevent the worldwide spread of pests and plant diseases as fresh food items are shipped around the globe. rancho_gordo makes a good point in suggesting it's possible that, "if the food were handled right in the first place we wouldn't need to go to such extremes." However, it's unclear to me that one can handle food "right enough" when it is being shipped from Peru or China to New York or Chicago.

Tana: The whole DDT thing comes mostly from hysteria that began with the publishing of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Most of this is not founded in science at all, but rather in politics. In fact, DDT is quite safe for humans compared to most pesticides, although it can cause the eggshells of certain birds (notably the Bald Eagle) to become unsustainably weak. There is no sound scientific evidence linking DDT to cancer. When one considers that something like 1 million people die every year from malaria, and that some estimate as many as 60 million preventable deaths due to insect-borne illnesses resulting from the various DDT bans, it makes a pretty good case for the judicious use of DDT in the right contexts. Something to think about the next time West Nile Virus raises its head in your town.

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I've discovered that eG isn't always the best place to discuss issues like food politics, ag sustainability, slow food or the basic assumption that local, fresh seasonal food is a worthwhile goal. One is more likely to get support for particular processed snack foods.

Just as you probably are confused that we don't see modern and corporate science as The Answer, we find it hard to fathom that our goals aren't embraced, especially on a food site. But I've been beat up or deleted when posting on these subjects and I don't have it in me to go through that again. And I suspect there are others who feel the same way and I wouldn't want our silence on this subject to be interpreted as agreement.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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rancho_gordo, I have to say that I absolutely disagree with almost everything you said in your last post. The record shows that there are plenty of discussions here about issues like food politics, agricultural sustainability, slow food or the basic assumption that local, fresh seasonal food is a worthwhile goal. Whether or not everyone agrees with you 100% is another story. That's why they call it a "discussion." It wouldn't be very interesting if the eG Forums were for nothing but mutual back-slapping.

I, for one, strongly support ideas like agricultural sustainability and fresh/seasonal/slocal food. But that doesn't mean I stick my head in the sand about the realities of food today, or that I won't try to address misinterpretations or misunderstandings of science where they are made. It is unfair to the others who have posted to this thread or elsewhere to suggest that any of them views "modern and corporate science as The Answer" or, for that matter, doesn't embrace the ideas of agricultural sustainability and fresh/seasonal/slocal food. I don't think anyone is suggesting in this thread that irradiation of food is preferable to eating fresh seasonal foods from one's own garden.

As for deletions... as you well know, deletions are made in the eG Forums for one reason only: when they break the rules. So, to the extent that one might try to hijack a thread about favorite processed snack foods into a political debate on agricultural sustainability and fresh/seasonal/slocal food instead of creating another thread (always an option) yes, those posts might be deleted or moved.

If you want to make your points, make them, support them and defend them. But don't insult your fellow members and walk away with your nose in the air. Not only is it unfair to everyone else, but it doesn't help further your beliefs either.

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I am sorry that some of you "aren't buying it" as noted earlier.

In discussions I have had with small farmers, who have only local outlets for their produce, they say that if there were portable irradiation units available to use close to the field source, it would mean that they would be able to treat and ship their (vastly superior to factory farm) produce to markets much further away.

And "Irridation" is the use of radiation to affect something one would have to use the phrase "treated with radiation" - using one word is easier and conveys the same information.

A person who is irradiated for cancer is treated with radiation - they are not radioactive themselves, neither are fruits or vegetables.

This tool, and that is all it is, has the potential to allow more competition in the marketplace, not less.

If better-tasting, healthier produce can be sent to market by small farmers, don't you think shoppers would opt for the product that tastes better?

Of course they would, except for the Luddites.

That would, in turn, force the factory farms who turn out tasteless produce to re-think their options and go back to the heirloom produce that tastes so much better than the hybrids that were developed simply for shipability and appearance, not for taste.

There are different levels of radiation treatment and it is selective. Lower levels will kill off harmful bacteria and parasites without affecting the genetic material.

Several generations of plants have been grown from fruits that were irridated with no evidence of mutation and this was all done long before any commercial applications were put into operation.

There are far worse dangers in this world than this.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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This brings up a good argument against the widespread use of labeling for irradiated foods, namely that the general public has very little understanding of what "irradiated" means, tends to confuse it with "nuclear radiation," and tends to believe that irradiated foods become radioactive and that the irradiation process causes nuclear waste.  None of these things are true.  In fact, the X-ray and electron beam irradiators used today are non-nuclear.

Actually, I don't think this is a good argument at all. Using radiation has at least as much benefit to the producer as it does to the consumer. So it seems to me that if the 'general public has very little understanding...' then agri-business can pay for the public relations campaign to educate the public about the safety of irradiated foodstuffs. That will lead to a mix of people who think it is terrible and avoid it, those who know about it and buy it, and those who saw on TV that it was safe and that is all they care about. If labeling laws were dependent on the general public's level of pre-understanding about the issues then nothing would be labeled.

The whole DDT thing comes mostly from hysteria that began with the publishing of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Most of this is not founded in science at all, but rather in politics.

Side note: though you may not have intended it, I think you may have slandered Ms. Carson. The research and opinion that she presents in her book is absolutely based on scientific method: that of observation analysis for cause rather than laboratory experimentation. Your opinion might be that the public and governmental response to her work was hysterical (though I think it is poor word choice) but if you read the text, her method and was sound.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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Actually, I don't think this is a good argument at all.  Using radiation has at least as much benefit to the producer as it does to the consumer.  So it seems to me that if the 'general public has very little understanding...' then agri-business can pay for the public relations campaign to educate the public about the safety of irradiated foodstuffs.  That will lead to a mix of people who think it is terrible and avoid it, those who know about it and buy it, and those who saw on TV that it was safe and that is all they care about.  If labeling laws were dependent on the general public's level of pre-understanding about the issues then nothing would be labeled.

I don't think having agribusiness pay for this is going to be the right option. I'm trying to figure out how the economics would work for small farmers to get everything legally in place to begin preserving their food via irradiation. At the U that I work at, it is very difficult to go through the motions to get a license to run an X-ray source, and when you couple that with farmers using much less skilled labor than engineering students [note, this is not slander, but using skilled as a synonym of educated, so back down] you're going to have a hell of a time 1: finding funds to purchase the equipment, 2: finding the legal moneys to license this beast, and 3: finding people who are willing to work for a farm wage to run one of them.

ConAgra could do it, but then you're removing the small farmer from the ability to court his customers as a real small farmer. What's the option?

Personally, I'm still for irradiated delicate fruits and vegetables. Even meats. But, I know the stock I was raised from and the other people in the area. We need to come up with a workable solution to them. Labeling ain't gonna be the answer. This, I'm certain of. Too much FUD.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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The whole DDT thing comes mostly from hysteria that began with the publishing of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Most of this is not founded in science at all, but rather in politics.

Side note: though you may not have intended it, I think you may have slandered Ms. Carson. The research and opinion that she presents in her book is absolutely based on scientific method: that of observation analysis for cause rather than laboratory experimentation. Your opinion might be that the public and governmental response to her work was hysterical (though I think it is poor word choice) but if you read the text, her method and was sound.

My statement was to characterize the response to the book, not Ms. Carson. However, one of the key assertions in Silent Sping was that DDT is a liver carcinogen. Repeated studies have failed to support a link between DDT and cancer. In fact, many studies even contradict her assertions as to DDT's eggshell thinning effect. Furthermore, some of her assertions (e.g., that "few of the eggs [laid by DDT-fed pheasants in a controlled experiment] hatched") were wholesale misrepresentations (e.g., the DDT-fed pheasant's eggs actually hatched at 80% compared to only 57% for the control group).

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I have a question about the effects of radiation on the enzymes in food. I know from brewing beer that at certain temperatures, the enzymes that convert starch to sugar are killed. I really like dry aged beef, which basicly is a form of controlled rotting. Are the enzymes that help in the aging process damaged by irradiation?

PS, I am not a nutcase or a Luddite, but there are alot of questions that need to be raised and answered on this issue!

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sorry.... double-post.

Edited by jsolomon (log)

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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I have a question about the effects of radiation on the enzymes in food. I know from brewing beer that at certain temperatures, the enzymes that convert starch to sugar are killed.  I really like dry aged beef, which basicly is a form of controlled rotting. Are the enzymes that help in the aging process damaged by irradiation?

PS, I am not a nutcase or a Luddite, but there are alot of questions that need to be raised and answered on this issue!

I think you're slightly confusing the issue (and slightly OT in this particular thread). The short answer is yes, the enzymes will be damaged by irradiation. To what extent they will be damaged depends on several issues: the sheer size of the enzyme, the amount of the enzyme, and how much damage the enzyme can sustain before being deactivated. So, really answering your question gets muddy when you have it as specific as an enzyme level.

The effects of irradiation are varied and sometimes subtle, but it still equates to a scorched earth policy of effecting everything good and bad. There are simply questions of level that are difficult to answer in some cases.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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It's also a fact that irradiation will never be a substitute for getting high quality natural aged beef or local, fresh ripe fruits and vegetables.

Thank you for making a point much more elegantly and insightful than I ever could! I think sometimes frustration (and perhaps a little anger) cloud my voice.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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It's also a fact that irradiation will never be a substitute for getting high quality natural aged beef or local, fresh ripe fruits and vegetables.

Yes, but I'd rather have an irradiated semi-charming tomato from 2 states over than a gassed wet-sand-textured red sensibility-offender from 7 states over.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Yes, but I'd rather have an irradiated semi-charming tomato from 2 states over than a gassed wet-sand-textured red sensibility-offender from 7 states over.

Yes, but wasn't the point that a tomato still hot from the sun picked from your garden the best of all? Or in August buying a brandywine from a local farmer at its peak of ripeness a really wonderful thing?

Maybe I'm reading too much into slkinsey's post. but I think I'd be more likely to come on board if we could at least agree on a best case scenaro and maybe even call it a goal.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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It's also a fact that irradiation will never be a substitute for getting high quality natural aged beef or local, fresh ripe fruits and vegetables.

Yes, but I'd rather have an irradiated semi-charming tomato from 2 states over than a gassed wet-sand-textured red sensibility-offender from 7 states over.

I agree with that too. The reality is that most of us (if we're lucky) have the ability to get high quality natural aged beef or local, fresh ripe fruits and vegetables but also have to rely on lesser/further-away-grown products as well. This is the nature of the modern world. There is no "eating only fresh, seasonal, local produce" year-round for someone who lives in North Dakota. So, it's a balancing act. To the extent that irradiation helps to spread the availability of heirloom tomatoes and natural meats and similar products, helps to reduce the use of post-ripening fumigants, helps to preserve grains for longer periods of time before spoilage, helps to prevent the worldwide spread of pests and diseases from lond-distance transportation of food items, etc. -- I'm all for it. But it's not going to stop me from supporting my local farmers down at the Green Market, and it's not going to stop me from working towards having more sustainable/slocal/seasonal foods produced in the world. They're not mutually exclusive.

Yes, but wasn't the point that a tomato still hot from the sun picked from your garden the best of all? Or in August buying a brandywine from a local farmer at its peak of ripeness a really wonderful thing?

No one who has ever had one could disagree.

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one thing i've noticed about discussions like this is that they tend to go reductionist very fast. we EITHER go the chez panisse route and have high-quality, carefully grown foods OR we go Conagra and have mass-produced food that lasts forever. i think experience shows that we can easily accomodate both--and plenty in between. today we have the cheapest food supply in history at our supermarkets, but we also have $6 a pound heirloom tomatoes at farmers markets. And we also have supermarkets starting to sell heirloom tomatoes! one thing does not rule out the other.

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