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Sound The Alarm Bells: Food Irradiation is a Growing Pain

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Decades ago alive sounded the alarm regarding food irradiation. Along with hundreds of thousands of Canadians, we were able to initiate a labelling law requiring a radura symbol to indicate irradiated food.

Decades ago alive sounded the alarm regarding food irradiation. Along with hundreds of thousands of Canadians, we were able to initiate a labelling law requiring a radura symbol to indicate irradiated food.

Now it's time to sound the alarm again: Health Canada has been quietly working to allow food irradiation on a long list of food products including ground beef, poultry, shrimp and mangos.

During irradiation, a mound of ground beef would be zapped with 10 kilorads of radiation about 200 million times greater than a chest X-ray. Irradiation does not change the colour, texture or taste of the food, but will enable it to sit on store shelves for days to weeks longer than nature would allow.

In the United States, food producers just got the go-ahead to call irradiated foods "cold pasteurized" instead of irradiated, mainly in response to consumer fears. And we should be fearful. Samuel Epstein, MD, professor emeritus of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois, tells us why:

  • Massive doses of ionizing radiation in meat create chemical changes, including elevation of cancer-causing benzene and radiolytic byproducts.
  • Studies by India's National Institute of Nutrition found that irradiated foods initiate genetic damage.
  • A group of unique chemicals called cyclobutanones are created in irradiated foods and have been shown to cause chromosomal damage in the intestines of humans.
  • More than 400 studies performed prior to 1980 on the cancer and genetic risks associated with irradiated foods have been ignored.
  • Vitamins A, C, E and B-complex vitamins are lost in substantial amounts when foods are irradiated.
  • Irradiation has been used to "clean up" food unfit for human consumption.
  • Odorous bacteria are killed so we cannot smell whether or not the food is fit for human consumption.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration has insisted food irradiation is safe even though its own expert Irradiated Food Committee warned that tests it was basing its safety upon were grossly flawed and inadequate.

Food safety is ostensibly the reason Health Canada is promoting food irradiation. But this is a cover-up for the real goal: longer shelf life means more money for the food giants because food that would normally be thrown out will be passed on to the consumer.

Why not clean up cattle feedlots, reduce overcrowding and stop feeding cattle pesticide- and herbicide-laden feed, which increases E. coli in animals? Cows fed grain produce a more acidic environment favourable to the development of E. coli. Cows allowed to graze and eat hay generate less than one per cent of the E. coli compared to grain-fed cows. Yet the destruction of E. coli is one of the main selling points of food irradiation.

Let's start a major campaign and stop food irradiation altogether. I urge each and every alive reader to send a letter stating your disgust at the Canadian government for even considering food irradiation. Fill it out and send it. Let your friends and family know that food irradiation is just one more processing procedure that increases our risks of cancer and genetic damage.

Join alive in this campaign and start writing today. We can be triumphant with your help.

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