FDA Says Choose Your Poison

FDA Says Choose Your Poison

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will now allow irradiation of fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce at a dose up to 4.0 kiloGray (kGy). This will kill harmful microbes like E. coli.

The FDA approved irradiation of wheat flour back in 1963, potatoes in 1964, fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices in 1986. Along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), FDA also approved irradiation of pork, poultry, and unspecified meat. Look in the meat case for the glow-in-the-dark green labels.

Fear of spinch-borne E. coli is overblown. There are 70,000 infections with E. coli O157 each year in the United States; the recent bagged-spinach outbreak involved 206 illnesses and three deaths attributed to E. coli-tainted spinach.

The current FDA approval for zapping produce is in partial response to a petition from the National Food Processors Association, but is mostly a response to an avalanche of bad press. but with an under-staffed agency, 24/7 news cycle, tabloid media, and an obese American public that thinks with its guts, irradiation must seem the better part of valor.

Expect to see a lot of Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. Her latest book was released in June: Zapped! Irradiation and the Death of Food.

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here (serve with a lead vinegrette). Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

3 Responses to “FDA Says Choose Your Poison”

  1. Weer'd Beard Says:

    Again your ignorance speaks volumes, Mike.

    I work in a Pharmsudical Animal lab, in it we work with imuno-compromised animals. Because these animals have little to no immmune system we must keep things very clean so they don’t become ill and ruin our data. Most things like cages, bedding, instuments, are either bought pre-packaed as sterile from suppliers, or are run through an autoclave that cooks off any microbes. Food that’s been heat-treated often looses neutritional value, so we serve our animals iradiated food.

    Simply it just means the food is treated with a healthy dose of UV and/or Gamma Radiation. This of course leaves no residual, and only slightly alters the neutrition of the food with the benifit of making it nearly 100% Germ and virus free.

    Think about it this way….will you set off a geiger counter after you get your teeth x-rayed at the dentist?

    I personally think this is a great idea, and well worth the costs….also it puts the safety of our food into FDA regulated facilites, rather than in open feilds sadly more-often-than-not staffed with illigal aliens from 3rd world nations.

  2. Mike Licht Says:

    WB: As stated in this post, all Americans have been consuming irradiated foods for decades. In addition, many packaged health and personal hygiene goods on the US consumer market are prepared with irradiation.

    In my all-too-brief European travels back in the 80s, I marveled that irradiated foods — cartons of milk, for example — were merely placed in pyramids on market floors, and few energy-consuming refrigerated cases were needed. In a country like the US today, where we expend so much energy on the food “cold chain,” this is certainly a consideration.

    What this FDA action does — aside from eliciting the predictable reactions, as pictured in my satirical illustration — is bring this technology to public attention. It is ironic that the over-reaction to food safety issues is responsible, but there you have it. I would like to think that these issues would motivate a better public understanding of science and technology, but the current state of jounalism does not encourage that.

  3. Weer'd Beard Says:

    “I would like to think that these issues would motivate a better public understanding of science and technology, but the current state of jounalism does not encourage that.”

    Yeah well you just have to look at yourself and the gun issue to see how that works in real life ; ]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: