Time For the Annual Irradiated Food Drive


Dave Weaver for The New York Times: Irradiating animal feed

There is a salmonella scare from contaminated peanuts, so it's time to roll out the articles in favor of irradiating food. The New York Times's Andrew Martin writes that irradiation "might even have killed the salmonella that reached grocery shelves in recent weeks after a factory in Georgia shipped tainted peanut butter and peanut paste, which wound up in products as diverse as cookies and dog treats."

Except later in the same article he notes that you can't irradiate peanuts.

Irradiation typically does not work so well on products with high amounts of fat or oil like peanut butter because they can turn rancid during the process. A spokesman for the American Peanut Council said irradiation was tested but found unacceptable because it degraded the taste of the nut.

Whenever TreeHugger writes about irradiation we get caught in the middle of a comment war about how we are anti-tech, that it is harmless and does not make food radioactive. We know, we understand how it works, and while some claim that it changes the nutritional value of the food, we will accept the premise that it is harmless and does not affect the food in any way. Let's even pretend that it works for peanuts. Because that is not my problem with it.

The problem with irradiation is that it is an after-the-fact solution to a problem that shouldn't exist.

1) There shouldn't BE salmonella in peanuts or e coli in spinach. If there is then they are not growing them properly. As Dr. Samuel Epstein told the CBC a few years ago:

"You could have fecal material in that and if it had been irradiated, it wouldn't harm you. But do you want to have fecal material in your food? Of course you don't."

2) There shouldn't be such concentration of the industry, such single-sourcing, that one company selling spinach or peanuts supplies the entire nation. If your neighbourhood CSA box supplier has an e-coli problem, a few people will get sick. When a big megagriculture operation has a salmonella problem,

more than 400 consumer products, including Jenny Craig nutritional bars and Keebler Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, have been recalled after eight people died and more than 500 people in 43 states, half of them children, were sickened by salmonella poisoning.

Fix the problem at its source, not after the fact with irradiation.

New York Times

More on irradiation in TreeHugger:
FDA Allows Nuked Spinach
A New Year's Prediction - Irradiated Leafy Green Vegetables Are Coming

Tags: Buy Local | Farming | Toxins

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