Your latest letter on food irradiation does contain many well thought
out points and some concerns that probably should be addressed. And of
course, your personal concerns should always be addressed at that level.
A few of the more radical detractors of the process have attempted to
claim that the food that has been irradiated becomes radioactive. That
false premise has been proven to be just that; false. But rumors still
persist among a few of the outer fringe groups.
Yes, the food is changed. But it is not unpredictable or
uncontrollable ways. This process has been around for many years and has
been researched and studied extensively. The end product is different
from the original. So is the end product you get out of a can.
Why is it hard to believe that a new process can be as effective as one
that has been around for centuries...cooking. If you heat any food to
200 degrees F. and hold it at that temperature for 10 or more minutes,
you will have killed all microbes (with a very few exceptions that would
be killed by extending the time), killed any and all eggs of microscopic
and slightly larger size (I am assuming here that larger eggs are not
present or you would throw the food out), and destroy many, if not all,
of the enzymes. It also breaks down, destroys, or chemically alters many
of the vitamins and other nutrients in the food.
I don't think anyone here would advocate eating uncooked or under
cooked pork, chicken, or beef; to name a few. Not many prefer their
potatoes raw either. And for a few individuals, uncooked cabbage is a
On labeling, I think we come close to agreement. I believe all food
and food products should be labeled showing all of their contents and the
process(es) that have been used on them prior to final packaging. If it
is grown organically, label it. If it is grown with heavy use of
artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and such; label it.
The reasons irradiation is used vary. In some cases, it is used "Just
in case". I suppose you could classify the use of irradiation in place
of long term quarantine to be a "just in case" use. It is also used in
cases where there is going to be a long period of storage before use.
This is occasionally required when the food is being carried long
distances to places where fresh food is non-existent.
Food that is not preserved either by canning or freezing cannot be kept
for more than about a week; maybe two if you really push it. Vegetables
that are harvested early and kept at very low, but above freezing,
temperatures, will last for somewhat longer periods. But they will be
tasteless when finally consumed and they will eventually spoil. Canning
is one alternative, but I can say from experience that a diet of all
canned goods gets old pretty fast. Use of irradiation in these
circumstances is an alternative that I think has merit and it is not
being used to "cover up food that shouldn't be shipped/eaten in the first
pl;ace". And these are only a couple of examples.
>Or, one can eat local, because that's the food with the highest
>rather than having to kill food to ship it long distances!
A laudable goal and one that I happen to have available to me now and
apparently you do as well. But I have not always had it. And as I
mentioned in an earlier (and harsher) response on this subject, one that
many citizens of the good ole USA don't have. In many parts of the
country one cannot buy locally a sufficient variety of foods to eat a
balanced diet. In a few places, one cannot buy enough locally grown food
--Dan in Sunny Puerto Rico--