food irradiation

Tom Berthold berthold at
Tue Sep 9 16:37:50 EDT 1997

I'm all for eating raw, uncooked foods for getting optimum nutrition,
but irradiation probably has fewer negative effects on the nutritional
quality of foods than any other form of cooking or preservation.  Any
health concerns about food irradiation are far outweighed by the
benefits received from elliminating pathogenic bacteria.  I don't have
specific information on the effect of irradiation on enzymes but I would
assume it is less than from actually cooking the food, which pretty much
destroys them all.  Eat fresh fruits and vegetables when you can but
don't be afraid of irradiation.   

According to the American Diabetic Association:

"Because irradiation does not substantially raise the temperature of the
food being processed, nutrient losses are small and are often
substantially less than nutrient losses associated with other methods of
preservation, such as canning, drying, and heat pasteurization and
sterilization.  Proteins, fats, and carbohydrate are not notably altered
by irradiation.  In general, those nutrients most sensitive to heat
treatment, such as the B vitamins and ascorbic acid, are those most
sensitive to irradiation.

"Irradiation does cause changes in food, all of which have been found to
be benign. More than 40 years of multispecies, multigenerational animal
studies have shown no toxic effects from eating irradiated foods.
Additionally, human volunteers consuming up to 100% of their diets as
irradiated food have shown no ill effect. Irradiation produces so little
chemical change in food that it is difficult to design a test to
determine whether a food has been irradiated.  
"A small number of new compounds are formed when food is irradiated,
just as new compounds are formed when food is exposed to heat. Early
research described these new compounds as "unique radiolytic products"
because they were identified after food was irradiated. Subsequent
investigations have determined that free radicals and other compounds
produced during irradiation are identical to those formed during
cooking, steaming, roasting, pasteurization, freezing, and other forms
of food preparation. Free radicals are even produced during the natural
ripening of fruits and vegetables. All reliable scientific evidence,
based on animal feeding tests and consumption by human volunteers,
indicates that these products pose no unique risk to human beings. In
fact, people requiring the safest food, hospital patients receiving bone
marrow transplants, are routinely given irradiated foods. Furthermore,
because spices, being of tropical origin, are often microbe laden,
irradiated spices are preferred for routine use in hospital foodservice
for patients. Thus, as with pasteurization, the evidence suggests that
food irradiation can make a quality food supply better."

john valenzuela wrote:
> I don't see that food irradiation fits into permaculture.
> I'm not an expert, but it is my understanding that food irradiation is a
> post harvest process that takes fresh produce and exposes it to gamma
> radiation at levels of about 1,000 times that of a chest X-ray.
> This destroys bacteria and other life, allowing the produce to take
> weeks to rot (in the case of strawberries for example)  This is ideal
> for the long distance shipment of produce, the basis of large scale
> export, which displaces fresh, yet more perishable local produce.
> This process disrupts local economies, taints the food with unknown
> toxins, and perpetuates the validation of the toxic legacy of the
> nuclear industry- from the uranium mines, and thier toxic tailings,
> weapons of mutually assured destruction, and power plants that will be
> deadly radioactive for many thousands of years. This transportation and
> use of low level radioactive elements already exists in hospitals for
> sterilization of medical supplies.  It is not widely known that most all
> spices that are imported into the United States have been irradiated.
> There is a group called 'Food and Water' based in Vermont whose grass
> roots efforts are to stop food radiation. They have extensive
> information on the issue. Unfortunately I don't have their contact info.
> For an article about our experience with the issues surrounding t
> proposed food irradiation facility here in Hawai'i, go to:
> //
> click on 'read from past issues' and go to the Jun '97 issue were you
> can read: 'The Economics of Irradiation: Boon or Boondoggle?'
> I prefer to enjoy food grown near where I live, support local economies,
> and work toward a nuclear-free world.
> with aloha 'aina
> -John
> John Valenzuela Permaculture Services
> PO Box 1280 Pahoa, Hawai'i 96778
> e-mail: johnvalenzuela at
> ______________________________________________________
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