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Avoid Synthetic Food
Part 4: Irradiation

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Pesticides and Herbicides
Part 3: GMO Food
Part 4: Irradiation
Part 5: Food Additives
Part 6: Aspartame
Part 7: Sugar
Part 8: Refined Oils and Salt
Part 9: MSG

Eaten out lately? Chances are good that if you grabbed some fast food or ate at a corporate chain restaurant, part of your meal was irradiated. When sold in grocery stores, irradiated foods are supposed to be labeled, but restaurants, hospitals, schools and food services do not have to (and most times do not) notify their customers. This so-called “purification” process exposes most food, especially meat, to gamma radiation to kill bacteria that can cause spoilage and/or food poisoning.

The radiation may come from nuclear material such as cobalt 60 or cesium 137 (both highly toxic), from x-rays or electronic beams. Usually, 100,000 RADS is administered to meats, vegetables and fruits, and up to 3,000,000 RADS is administered to spices.[i] Supposedly, the food doesn’t become radioactive, but other biochemical changes do occur—changes that have been shown to adversely affect both humans and animals. Irradiation ionizes the atoms in food, knocking electrons out of orbit and creating free radicals, some of which recombine to form new, sometimes unknown compounds. Though stable, many of these compounds are toxic, such as formaldehyde, benzene, and lipid peroxides. Other free radicals cause destruction at the cellular level. Irradiated foods can lose up to 80 percent of their vitamins, especially vitamins A, C, E, K and B complex, as well as folic acid—the very substances needed to fight free radicals. Irradiation destroys the vital life force (chi energy), live enzymes (found in fresh foods and responsible for aiding both digestion and metabolic activity) and friendly bacteria needed to maintain health.

Animals fed irradiated foods have shown various results: tumors, kidney failure, reproductive problems, miscarriages and death of offspring. And those effects may not be limited to animals. In 1975, five malnourished children in India were fed irradiated wheat (at 75,000 RADS) for over three weeks. Four of the five children showed gross chromosomal damage just four weeks after initiation of the feeding, and the experiment was stopped. According to S.G. Srikantia, Professor of Food and Nutrition at the University of Mysore, India, such an increase in abnormalities strongly suggests a link to cancer.

Lost your appetite? You aren’t alone. According to a 1997 CBS nationwide poll, 77 percent of the American public would not knowingly eat irradiated food. Recently, 98.2 percent of the Americans responding to the FDA’s request for public comment said they wanted the current labeling law maintained or strengthened.[ii] Labeling of irradiated food is not required if it is not packaged for resale to the public. The majority of Americans questioned about irradiation are against it, and say they want irradiated foods to be labeled as such. So the industry has come up with terms such as “electronic pasteurization,” “pasteurization with x-rays” and “cold pasteurization.” Whatever they call it, it’s still irradiation.

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Though its population clearly doesn’t approve, the United States accepts irradiation for beef, pork, poultry, grains, vegetables, fruits, spices and teas. And if conventional agribusiness has its way, irradiation facilities containing highly toxic nuclear materials will be built around the country, increasing the risk of nuclear accidents such as the 1988 leak in Georgia, when radioactive cesium-137 water escaped from one facility, costing taxpayers $47 million to clean up. Internationally, there are over 150 irradiation facilities in over 40 countries. During a typical irradiation treatment, over 90 percent of both harmful and beneficial bacteria are destroyed. So, though E. coli is destroyed, so are the helpful bacteria that alert our noses with a foul smell once the food has gone bad. And, while the bacteria responsible for botulism are not killed, the natural enemies of botulism are destroyed during the irradiation process.

A hypothesis supported by many professionals is that E. coli and other harmful bacteria may become radiation resistant if irradiation becomes widespread. In fact, the Deinococcus radiodurans bacterium can survive 1.5 million RADS of gamma irradiation (that’s 3,000 times the amount that would kill a person!) by reconstructing itself within 24 hours after being sliced to pieces by the radiation![iii]

So, what’s the underlying reason for all this nuking? Rampant fecal contamination of animals destined for slaughter appears to be the reason the meat industry is pushing so strongly for irradiation. Most food poisoning is caused by animal feces in food or water. Unsanitary and foul slaughterhouse conditions severely afflict that industry (read Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry, by Gail Eisnitz). Rather than zapping the meat, wouldn’t a better solution be to literally clean up their act?

Until then, we may want to consider eating little or no meat (hey, boycotting sends a mega-message to mega-business). And write your congressperson, or a supermarket/chain store CEO, as New Jersey Assemblyman John Kelly did. Kelly wrote to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott after learning of Wal-mart’s plan to sell irradiated meat:

“Contrary to what irradiation proponents would have you believe, the science supporting the safety of irradiated food is woefully lacking and borders on being nonexistent. It is a smoke and mirrors science at its best. In approving food irradiation, the FDA ignored the recommendations of its own toxicology committees. Rather than conduct toxicology studies that would address the issue of long-term health effects, the FDA chose to approve irradiation based on, in their words, ‘theoretical calculations in radiation chemistry.’

There is a body of research on the safety of irradiated food that raises concern, and yet is ignored by the FDA. One recurring theme is the effect of irradiated food on reproduction. A number of studies have raised the issue of miscarriages and fertility. USDA studies found that an irradiated diet resulted in 83 percent fewer offspring. I would hope you choose not to participate in this experiment with your customer’s health and refrain from marketing what I refer to as ‘birth control burgers.’”[iv]

Now, where is the trusty FDA when we need it? On the wrong side, it would appear. From over 2,000 studies on food irradiation, they chose only five as cite-worthy, discarding or ignoring those which suggested that irradiation can cause harmful effects in animals or humans. The five studies accepted by the FDA have been strongly criticized because of their methodology and interpretation of data. For example, since irradiation is known to deplete vitamins, vitamin supplements were fed to the rats in one of the studies. In two more of the five studies, 55,000 RADS or less was administered to foods fed to the animals—significantly lower than the 100,000 RADS currently used to treat food for human consumption. In one of the studies, four litters of rats were still-born on the 200,000 rad diet, whereas only one such litter was still-born in the control group. In another study, five of sixteen dogs fed irradiated foods had birth defects.[v] Yet the FDA still approved irradiation based on the findings from these five studies!

For those who care to read it, there is enough scientific literature to suggest that eating irradiated food can cause health problems. In fact, in June of 1987, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment heard expert testimonies from four academic scholars;[vi] all four spoke against irradiation. George Tritsch, Ph.D., stated, “I am opposed to consuming irradiated food because of the abundant and convincing evidence in the referenced scientific literature that the condensation products of the free radicals formed during irradiation produce statistically significant increases in carcinogenesis, mutagenesis and cardiovascular disease in animals and man.”[vii] Richard Piccioni, Ph.D., states, “We feel that there is no assurance in the scientific literature or the arguments of the FDA that the widespread irradiation of food will not be a significant, if silent, threat to the public health.”[viii] Donald Louria, Ph.D., states, “I do not believe that irradiated foods have been shown to be safe for general consumption [and]…the effects of irradiation on the nutrient contents of food are not established.”[ix] S.G. Srikantia, B.Sc., B.B.S., D.Sc., states, “[The National Institute of Nutrition]…stands behind its statement that eating irradiated wheat-based diets is associated with undesirable consequences.”[x] For an excellent source of compiled articles, books and news items related to the ill effects of irradiation, visit the Organic Consumers Association at and click on their “irradiation” link—you’ll find plenty of facts and figures.

If you want to avoid irradiated food, buy organic and ask the restaurants you frequent if they know whether or not the food they serve has been irradiated.

>>> Go To Part 4: Food Additives


[i] Virginia Polytechnic Institute,

[ii] Food Irradiation Alert! “An Inside Report on Food Safety and the Food Industry,” Aug./Sept. 2001 Vol. 2, No. 4’ found at:

[iii] Environment News Service and BioDemocracy and Organic Consumers Association,

[iv] Public Citizen, Critical Mass Energy & Environment Program,

[v] Ibid.

[vi] S.G. Srikantia, B.Sc., B.B.S., D.Sc., Professor of Food and Nutrition, University of Mysore, India; Donald, Louria, Ph.D.,  Chairman, Department of Preventative Medicine and Community Health, University of Medicine & Dentistry, New Jersey; George Tritsch, Ph.D., Cancer Research Scientist, Rosewell Park Memorial Institute, New York State Department of Health; and Richard Piccioni, Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist, Accord Research and Educational Associates, New York, NY;

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.