Dear Editor: I was concerned to see the safety article on food irradiation that was in the paper several weeks ago. As is often the case, every story has another side. From my research, the safety issue has not been proven. It is a very political issue that needs public education. Here are some of the issues, problems and outstanding questions about food irradiation ‘how safe do you think it is’ What’s wrong with food irradiation’ It’s interesting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given food irradiation the green light. In its own “Recommendations for Evaluating the Safety of Irradiated Foods ” (Final Report), it states, “chronic feeding studies which have substituted up to 35 percent of the normal [lab animal] diet with specific irradiated food, e.g. beef, chicken, potatoes, onions and papaya’had to be terminated because of premature mortality and morbidity.” In other words, these animals got sick and died. And keep this in mind: if your food is exposed to 100,000 rads of ionizing radiation, this is 2,500,000 times the dose of the typical chest X-ray. It is more than 150 times the lethal dose to humans. According to even a basic physics textbook, exposure to 10,000 rads totally destroys living tissue. Irradiation damages the quality of food. ‘ Irradiation damages food by breaking up molecules and creating free radicals. They bounce around in the food, damage vitamins and enzymes and combine with existing chemicals (e.g. pesticides) in the food to form new chemicals, called unique radiolytic products (URPs). ‘ Some of these URPs are known toxins (benzene, formaldehyde, lipid peroxides) and some are unique to irradiated foods. Scientists have not studied the long-term effects of these new chemicals in our diet. ‘ Irradiated foods can lose five percent-80 percent of many vitamins (A, C, E, K and B complex). The amount of loss depends on the dose of irradiation and the length of storage time. Irradiation almost certainly inactivates the natural digestive enzymes found in raw foods. This means the body has to work harder to digest the food. ‘ Raw foods that have been irradiated look like fresh foods, but nutritionally they are like cooked foods, with decreased vitamins and enzymes. ‘ Irradiated fats tend to become rancid. ‘ When high-energy electron beams are used, trace amounts of radioactivity may be created in the food. Science has not proven that a long term diet of irradiated food is safe for human health. ‘ The longest human feeding study was 15 weeks. No one knows the long-term effects of a life-long diet that includes foods that will be frequently irradiated, such as meat, chicken, vegetables, fruits, salads, sprouts and juices. ‘ There are no studies on the effects of feeding babies or children diets containing irradiated foods, except a small, controversial study from India that showed health effects. ‘ Studies on animals fed irradiated food have shown increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney damage. Some possible causes are: irradiation-induced vitamin deficiencies, the inactivity of enzymes in the food, DNA damage and toxic radiolytic products in the food. ‘ Irradiation always disrupts DNA, which stops cell division. Without cell division, food does not undergo the normal processes of ripening and decay. The expanded shelf life is a direct result of the devastation of the food’s DNA. ‘ The FDA based its approval of irradiation on only five of 441 animal-feeding studies. The five studies are not a good basis for approval for irradiation for humans, because they showed health effects in the animals or were conducted using lower energies of irradiation than those approved for foods for human consumption. Irradiation doesn’t provide clean food. ‘ Irradiation covers up the fecal contamination that results from meat and poultry industry deregulation. ‘ Because of deregulation, the industry has recently suffered economically from food-poisoning lawsuits and expensive product recalls. Inspectors are not allowed to condemn meat and poultry now that they condemned 20 years ago. ‘ Seven meat industry associations recently submitted a petition to USDA to redefine key terms relating to contamination. If accepted, these redefinitions would essentially allow unlimited fecal contamination during production, as long as irradiation was used afterwards. ‘ Irradiation doesn’t kill all the bacteria in a food, so the ones that survive are by definition radiation-resistant. These bacteria will multiply and eventually work their way back to the animal factories. ‘ Since irradiation doesn’t kill all the bacteria in a food, in a few hours at room temperature, the bacteria remaining in meat or poultry after irradiation can multiply to the level existing before irradiation. ‘ Some bacteria, like the one that causes botulism, viruses and prions (which are believed to cause Mad Cow disease) are not killed by current doses of irradiation. Sources: purefood.com, Organic Consumers Association, “The Food That Would Last Forever” by Dr. Gary Gibbs SHARI L. STACEY Brady, Tex.