FDA Wants to Remove Labels from Irradiated Food

Doesn't the thought of your food being bathed in the warm light of radiation before it reaches the grocery store make you feel safe? If you're like me and you're thinking "not so much", then you might find this interesting.

In early April, the government proposed relaxing rules on labeling irradiated food, instead calling some of it "pasteurized". Since pasteurization involves food being heated and rapidly cooled to kill bacteria and irradiation involves zapping it with gamma rays or x-rays, I'm not exactly seeing the similarities.

According to Food and Water Watch, a group urging people to tell the FDA not to change the rules, studies show the process may at the very least deplete vitamins and at worst promote cancer. They say irradiation is a "band-aid for the much larger problem of poor sanitation in slaughterhouses and processing plants." I tend to agree.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says with the new rules, food would only have to be labeled irradiated if the process causes a material change in the product, such as taste, texture, smell or shelf life. "Pasteurized" could be used to describe foods if it is proven the radiation kills germs just as well. If that term doesn't satisfy the companies, they can petition the FDA to use others.

Why the band-aid label fits

While irradiation does have its uses in protecting us from food borne illness and most scientists and food safety experts endorse its use, I'm not sure that it's the only way. Until food processing factories are monitored sufficiently to stop bacterial outbreaks, irradiation is just being used to compensate for improper hygiene.

Another reason to buy food locally

If your food comes from local producers and processors you trust, you can rest easier in the knowledge that sanitary conditions are being upheld. Besides, once food is irradiated it still has a long journey to your table, where it can become contaminated by any number of other sources. Who would want food that's altered to stay fresh longer when they can get the real thing? Tell the FDA what you think here.

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