Food Irradiation & your Family

Food Irradiation & your Family

I am sorry to say that unfortunately today’s parents now ALSO need to be aware of Food Irradiation.

Over the last decade food irradiation has been linked with health problems such as cancer, chromosomal damage resulting in birth defects, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, immune weaknesses, ADD and epilepsy.
This nasty procedure involves exposing food to gamma rays from a nuclear source and has wide-reaching implications for our health and the environment.

Irradiated foods contain molecules found nowhere else in nature. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has grouped these “radiolytic by-products”’ into two categories: known radiolytic products and unique radiolytic products. Radiolytic by- products include formaldehyde and benzene which are proven carcinogens, while unique radiolytic products are new molecules that have not yet been characterised.

What’s frightening is that no one knows the long-term effects of these ’unique’ molecules on our health.

According to Food Irradiation Watch, an affiliate of Friends of the Earth Australia, ”Ionising radiation such as this is NOT similar to microwaves. The radiation dose limit of 30 kilograys allowed for herbs and spices is equivalent to 1 billion chest x-rays. The 10 kilogray limit on remaining foods is equivalent to 330 million chest x-rays.”

Irradiation is a clever way of utilising nuclear waste materials to keep food fresh longer and reduce the risk of food poisoning. It kills the bacteria (like salmonella, a major problem in poultry, meat and egg production) but the process may also destroy more than we want it to; irradiated milk, for example, loses 70% of its vitamin A, thiamin and riboflavin. In fact, vitamin content can be reduced by up to 96% depending upon the food item and other factors. Vitamins affected are A, B, C, E and K, and also amino acids and polyunsaturated fats.

Irradiation In Australia And New Zealand

The Food Standards Code in Australia (FSANZ) allows for the irradiation of spices, herbs and herbal infusions. While an expensive process, irradiation is also used in Australia against critical quarantine pests such as fruit fly in tropical fruits, with gamma rays killing insects, eggs, larvae and pathogenic micro-organisms.

Currently in Australia, imported herbs and dried fruits are also irradiated, and regulatory authorities are not rigorously enforcing correct product labelling, which means that we are often not informed if these items have had radiation exposure.

The Australian government has been considering food irradiation as a mandatory quarantine requirement for all imports and exports, for the purpose of eliminating bacteria, extending shelf life and killing invasive pests. Organic standards do not allow the irradiation of food, therefore if this legislation changes, organic produce will be unable to be imported to or exported from Australia.

If Australia follows in the footsteps of the United States in regards to food irradiation, we may see the approval of many more irradiated food products such as eggs, vegetables, fruit and fresh meat.

Irradiation of meat in the US has lead to opposition from the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals. Vice Chairperson Mr Arthur Hughes said, “The meat industry wants to use irradiation as an excuse to push inspectors out of their facilities.” He also added, “Irradiating meat is the meat industry’s answer to filthy meat processing practices that leave meat contaminated with faeces, urine and pus. Consumers will be the losers, because no one will be around to ensure the food supply is safe.” More than 80 grocery stores and meat markets in Florida and Wisconsin have stopped selling irradiated meat due to consumer resistance.
Packaged irradiated products are labeled with phrases such as “treated with ionising radiation”, “irradiated” or “disinfested by irradiation”. An example is Hilde Hemes Herbal Teas, a company which is irradiating their products and labeling them according to the requirements set by FSANZ.
The international Radura symbol, which resembles a budding flower, may also be added to the product.

This pretty, innocent- looking symbol indicates that a food has been irradiated.

It is still unclear as to how loose items such as fruit will be labelled. Initially FSANZ indicated that a label would be placed ‘near’ the produce, however in the final assessment this issue was not addressed. Alarmingly, restaurants, cafés and takeaway outlets will not be required to label irradiated items in Australia.

Foods Currently Irradiated In Australia And New Zealand

• Spices

• Herbs

• Herbal infusions (e.g. Hilde Hemes Herbal Teas)

• Tropical fruits including bread-fruit, custard apple, lychee, mango, mangosteen,
papaya, rambutan, carambola and longan

• Imported herbs and dried fruits

If you are unable to find certain organic products which do not allow food irradiation, consider buying local produce rather than imported items that may have already been irradiated. Concerned parents can order an Irradiation Free Food Guide online at

Irradiation In America

According to Dr Lipski, author of Digestive Wellness for Children, 75% of American beef producers and 50% of current poultry producers have signed agreements to use food irradiation.

Sadly, irradiated food is finding its way into schools in the United States. Schools are not required to inform parents that they are serving irradiated food to their children.

Foods Irradiated In America

The US FDA has approved irradiation for use in:

• Beef, pork, chicken and other poultry

• Eggs in the shell

• Fruits and vegetables

• Wheat and wheat flour

• Juice

• Spices

• Dried vegetable seasonings

• Sprouting seeds

An August report polled by the Centres of Disease Control, US Department of Agriculture, and the FDA found that

  • only half of the 11,000 adults were willing to buy irradiated beef or poultry
  • only one quarter of the adults surveyed were willing to pay a higher price for irradiated foods

“They cited insufficient information about irradiated foods and concerns regarding safety”

While “treated with radiation” is required to be printed on foods that are irradiated in the US alarmingly FOODS THAT ARE NOT ENTIRELY IRRADIATED (for eg. a can of soup containing irradiated herbs as well as ingredients that have not) DO NOT HAVE TO DISPLAY AN IRRADIATION LABEL. In addition, the food irradiation label or disclosure is allowed to be written in extremely small print – equivalent to the font size of the ingredients list.

Food Irradiation In Europe

In all European Union countries, the irradiation of dried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings is allowed. Unfortunately, irradiated foods in Europe are often not labelled. Many products continue to illegally find their way onto the supermarket shelves unlabelled.

Tests taken from food shops in March 2001 by the BBC revealed that unlabelled products were actually irradiated. These products included Sharwood’s curry powder, Haldane’s Realeat ‘Non GM’ Vege Burger mix, Fiddes Payne’s Spice It Up seasoning mix and Holland & Barrett’s Good ‘n’ Natural Korean Ginseng tablets. Out of 18 samples of shellfish sent by trading standards officers for analysis over the last five years, seven were irradiated.

According to the Independent Commission for Research and Information on Radioactivity, “Testing by the National Food Authorities in Germany, UK, Ireland and Denmark has revealed that a high number of dietary supplements sold in the European Union are irradiated without permission and without being labelled. Moreover, it is widely known that irradiated fruits and fruit juices are commonly sold in the European Union without permission.”

Irrespective, in the UK the indication of irradiated products must be marked on a menu, notice, ticket or label. Use of the term ‘may contain’ is no longer permitted.

Foods That May Be Irradiated Throughout Europe

According to the Official Journal of the European Union:

• Deep frozen aromatic herbs

• Potatoes, yams, vegetables, onions, garlic, shallots

• Dried vegetables

• Fruit (including fungi, tomato, rhubarb and strawberries)

• Pulses

• Cereals, flakes from cereals

• Rice flour

• Flakes and germs of cereals for milk products

• Casein, caseinates

• Gum

• Egg white

• Chicken meat, poultry (domestic fowls, geese, ducks, guinea fowls, poultry, pigeons, quails and turkeys)

• Mechanically recovered poultry meat

• Offal of poultry

• Frozen frog legs

• Fish and shellfish (including eels, crustaceans and molluscs)

• Frozen peeled or decapitated shrimps, fresh shrimps

• Dehydrated blood, plasma, coagulates

Food irradiation is unnecessary. Contamination could easily be prevented by good manufacturing, processing, transport and hygiene practices, and by suitable, enforceable government regulations.

The more we discover that most generic food items are enhanced with hormones and additives, and now possibly irradiated, we begin to realise that purchasing organic food is not a luxury, but an integral step in securing our health.



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