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Food Irradiation Rears Its Ugly Head In Canada


</P> Irradiation is a controversial preservation proce.

The biggest threat to our food supply since genetic engineering has reared its ugly head food irradiation. Health Canada wants to change existing regulations to allow for new uses of food irradiation. And it's up to us to stop it.

Irradiation is a controversial preservation process during which food products are exposed to ionizing radiation to extend shelf life and kill insects, fungi and some bacteria. Proponents such as Health Canada, the United States Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization the same groups that have saddled us with genetically modified foods--claim the procedure is safe. Independent scientists and non-government-funded organizations say differently.

There is not enough space to do the issue justice here. Here are a few key points. Food irradiation:

  • is NOT safe. Serious health problems in lab animals that ate irradiated foods have been documented, including premature death, mutation, reproductive problems, tumours and suppressed immune function.
  • creates new chemicals called "unique radiolytic products," including some known or suspected to cause cancer and birth defects.
  • of meat products has not undergone long-term toxicological safety studies.
  • destroys vitamins, amino acids and fatty acids.
  • doesn't address the causes of most food poisoning outbreaks, which include poor handling and animal husbandry practices.
  • increases occupational and environmental hazards due to the transport and handling of radioactive materials.
  • gives the nuclear industry a convenient method of toxic waste disposal.

alive covered this issue back in 1986/87, when groups and consumers across the country rallied to a similar threat with letters, phone calls and protests. The message sent to Health Canada and the nuclear industry the real behind-the-scenes benefactor--was an unequivocal "No!"

Unfortunately, some irradiated products have already slipped into Canada: wheat, flour, whole wheat flour, potatoes, onions, spices and dehydrated seasonings. But if this newest amendment goes through, expect to see irradiated ground beef, poultry, shrimp, prawns and mangoes all marked by a distinctive "radura" symbol.

Your response now is crucial! We are standing on a slippery slope. And unless we dig in, it's going to be a hard fall. Look at the United States. The US allowed irradiated meat products several years ago. Late last year, they allowed the importation of irradiated fruits and vegetables. Now, they are considering using irradiated foods in their National School Lunch Program for children. If Canada allows irradiated meats, what's next? For one thing, a slick endorsement campaign geared at lowering the public's defenses.

The only thing that will stop food irradiation from pushing forward at this point is the same thing that stopped it before a massive consumer response. Don't pass the responsibility to someone else. Every letter and phone call is needed before the deadline of February 21.

So here's the action plan. Go to the Web site of Public Citizen at Their documentation is both extensive and shocking. Canadian resources include the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout at and Health Action Network Society at

Write a letter demanding that the proposed amendment to the Food and Drugs Act allowing irradiated meat products and mangoes be thrown out. Or visit for a sample letter.

Send your letter to:

Bureau of Food Regulatory, International and Interagency Affairs
Building No. 7 (0702C1)
Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0L2
Fax: 613-941-3537

Health Minister Anne McLellan
Brooke Claxton Building, P.L. 0906C
Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0L2
Fax: 613-952-1154

Ron Burke, Director
Food Regulatory Affairs
Food Directorate Health Products and Food Branch
Health Canada, P.L. 0702C1
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0L2
Fax: 613-957-1784

Write to your local Member of Parliament and at least 10 other MPs asking that they refuse to endorse irradiated foods. To find your MP, go to, click on "government contacts" and search by postal code.

Ask the managers at your local supermarkets whether they sell irradiated products. Tell them you will not buy irradiated foods.

If every one of us takes these actions, we can make an important difference.



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