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Research dating back to the 1950s has revealed a wide range of health problems
in both humans and animals that ate irradiated food:
• In 1973, the National Institute of Nutrition tested irradiated wheat on a variety of
experimental animals - mice, rats, monkeys - and even some undernourished children.[39]
The children and monkeys showed increased levels of polyploid white blood cells - that is,
cells which have abnormal numbers of chromosomes.
• Two independent reports published in 1966 showed that irradiated sucrose is extremely
toxic to human white blood cells - the cells divide poorly and their chromosomes become
severely damaged.[40], [41]
• Numerous studies have shown that feeding irradiated food to mice, rats, dogs, fruit flies
or monkeys causes death, low body weight, tumors,[42], [39] internal bleeding,[43], [44]
nutritional muscular dystrophy,[45] abnormal numbers of chromosomes[39] and
chromosome mutations,[46], [47] physical deformities[48] and radioactive liver, kidney,
stomach, gastrointestinal tract, blood, urine and feces.[49]
Irradiated foods have never been fully tested for their effects on human health. The only
human feeding study, on underfed Indian children, showed disturbing changes in white
blood cells after just 15 weeks. No one knows what the effects would be of a life-long diet that
includes irradiated foods.[70]
Irradiation destroys nutrients
Irradiating fruits and vegetables destroys up to 95 percent of the vitamins, minerals and
essential fatty acids.[32], [50], [51] Vitamins are most sensitive to the effects of irradiation,
especially vitamins C and E, which are 'anti-oxidants'. Anti-oxidants are extremely beneficial
to human health, as they protect cells from the effects of free radicals. But irradiation
stimulates the production of free radicals, which speeds up the destruction of these antioxidants. Vitamins are already lost during canning, freezing, drying, storing and cooking irradiation is yet another nutrient-depleting process that food undergoes before it reaches
the plate. Vitamins continue being destroyed long after irradiation, because free radicals
remain in food and continue to react during storage and cooking.[33] And because
irradiation extends shelf-life, more destruction is likely to occur before the food is finally
Vitamin losses have been measured in a range of foods:
• For irradiated, cooked hazelnuts, 91 percent of vitamin E is lost during treatment,
compared with 33 percent for unirradiated hazelnuts.[51]
• According to California Day-Fresh Foods, irradiating orange juice strips away 48 percent
of its beta-carotene, 13 percent of its vitamin C and 10 percent of its vitamin A.[54]
• Irradiated liver loses 4 percent more vitamin A than non irradiated liver after one week
and 18 percent more after two weeks.[55]
• Irradiated potatoes lose 50 percent of their beta-carotene content after six months in
• Up to 80 percent of the vitamin A in irradiated eggs is lost after one month of
• For irradiated, cooked rolled oats, 74 percent of vitamin B1 (thiamine) is lost during
treatment, compared with 8 percent for unirradiated oats.[58] Chicken loses between 11 and
45 percent of its B1 content [59] and haddock, beef, turkey, ham, bacon, peaches and beets
show losses of 70-95 percent.[60]
• One-third of vitamin C in potatoes is destroyed,[61] and after 40 days of storage, lemons
lose 90 percent of vitamin C.[62]
• 91 percent of vitamin B6 and 33 percent of vitamin B12 are lost in irradiated beef stored
for 15 months.[52], [53]
Wet dog smell
Irradiation does not only destroy nutritional content, but also affects the flavor, texture and
smell of foods. Irradiated meat, fish and poultry are reported to have a 'wet dog smell,' and
fruits and vegetables become mushy.[63], [64], [65] Pork can turn red and eggs can lose
their color and become runny.[38] Dairy products develop off-flavors and soft fruits become
unacceptably soft. Irradiated fats easily become rancid because free radicals oxidize the fats.
For this reason, fatty foods are irradiated only if they are likely to be cooked, or used within a
short time. Luminescence, or glowing, has also been reported.[68] Another side effect of
irradiating fruit and vegetables is delayed ripening. This may initially seem like a benefit, but
may not be. There is no clear understanding of what causes the delay - it may be due to a
change in the structure of the food.[32] Irradiated pears fail to soften and have an insipid
flavor.[66] Apples have a hard, wrinkled skin with sunken patches and an 'alcoholic' or 'off'flavor.[67]
Irradiation resistance
Like antibiotic resistance, bacteria can also develop irradiation resistance. Irradiation doesn't
kill all bacteria, and those that survive will be irradiation resistant. These bacteria will
multiply and eventually work their way back to 'factory farms.' Irradiation resistant bacteria
that contaminate meat will no longer be killed by current doses of irradiation. Higher and
higher doses of irradiation will be needed, and stronger bacteria will contaminate the food
Irradiation can increase the risk of food poisoning
Even when bacteria are killed by irradiation, the toxins they produce are not destroyed, and
some toxins can even increase.[68] Production of aflatoxin, a toxin produced by
Aspergillus molds, is stimulated in surviving irradiated Aspergillus. Botulin, the toxin that
causes botulism food poisoning also becomes more dangerous after irradiation. Several
incidents and studies have indicated that irradiated seafood has a higher risk of botulism
than non-irradiated seafood. In addition, irradiation destroys harmless or friendly bacteria
which 'crowd out' harmful bacteria. With the friendly bacteria gone, there is more room for
unwelcome bacteria to move in. For example, soft fruits, such as strawberries, have been
shown to be vulnerable to re-infection after irradiation. To be effective and marketable,
irradiated strawberries need to be packaged in a material suitable for irradiation, such as
polyethylene film.Consumers could become more careless about hygiene if irradiation was
widely used. Irradiation doesn't kill all the bacteria in a food, and after a few hours at room
temperature, bacteria remaining in irradiated meat or poultry can multiply to the same level
as before irradiation.
Irradiated feces is still feces
Irradiation may kill most harmful bacteria, but does not tackle the source of
contamination. Many factory farms, processing plants and slaughterhouses greatly
increase the spread of bacteria, as meat is regularly contaminated by feces, urine,
pus and vomit. Many consumers fear that widespread irradiation of food would lead
meatpackers to actually decrease hygiene, because they could 'clean-up' high levels of fecal
and bacterial contamination just before it was shipped. Irradiated meat may not have any
dangerous bacteria in it, but would still be contaminated with feces.
Organic food is never irradiated
International organic guidelines prohibit the use of irradiation on food or any of its
ingredients. In addition to its effects on human health, nutrition and flavor, organic handlers
also consider the technology expensive and favor more cost-effective techniques. Organic
food can meet safety requirements without ionizing radiation. Other, more established good
manufacturing practices are more compatible with organic handling. Advances in other
techniques related to the widespread adoption of HACCP have improved food safety. Proven
methods suggested by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI)[68] include:
• Improved sanitation on the farm, slaughterhouse and processing plant
• Hot water treatment
• Removal of free moisture and field heat
• Maintenance of optimal storage temperature and humidity,
• Improved quality control
• Worker hygiene
• Refrigeration and freezing
• Ozone
• Hydrogen peroxide
• Controlled atmosphere
• Carbon dioxide
• Timing of harvest (pick-to-order)
• Local marketing
• Consumer education
• Beneficial organisms such as Pseudomonas syringae and parasitic wasps
• Improved assays for pathogens
Irradiation destroys most harmful bacteria and insects and prolongs shelf-life, but the price
is high. New chemicals are created which are toxic to human DNA but which have never been
tested for safety. Nutrition is drastically reduced and flavor and texture can be
impaired. Irradiation resistant bacteria are created and the risk of diseases
such as botulism is increased. Meat is more likely to be contaminated with (sterilized)
feces. Irradiation is not a substitute for hygiene. Consumers now have a choice between
meat potentially contaminated with deadly bacteria, nutritionally-empty meat
containing toxins and irradiated feces, or organic meat.
The Basic Disadvantages of Food Irradiation:
It reduces the content of several key nutrients such as Vitamin E (~15-30 %);
Thiamin (~10-25%); Vitamin C (5-15%); Riboflavin (~7-10%); Pyridoxine
(~10-20%); Vitamin B12 (~15-20%). Other nutrients are also affected
however the results are less consistent.
It creates radiolytic products with unknown short term or long term safety
Some of the organoleptic properties are affected especially for herbs, spices,
essential oils.
Formation of cholesterol oxides and fatty acid epoxidation and other
oxidation products (aldehydes, esters, ketones etc.) posing safety concerns.
Aggregation of certain proteins has been found for high protein commodities.
The method is 90-95%% effective in killing microorganisms. The remaining
5-10% remain unaffected and may proliferate thus negating the irradiation
steps. The methods can result in 95-100% effectiveness but will substantially
affect the quality of the food item (taste, nutrient contents, radiolytic
products,denaturing proteins, fatty acids etc.).
Is ineffective against viruses.
The above information is based on the latest scientific studies and resources from the UIC
School of Public Health.
In thermal food processing there is a rather homogeneous reduction of all bacteria, both the
relatively harmless and those that are pathogenic or toxin producing. In irradiation, bacteria
are killed in a proportion relative to their sensitivity and resistance to radiation. Some of the
bacteria, which produce the natural indicators of unwholesomeness in food, i.e. staleness,
disagreeable smell or unpleasant taste, would be killed off while some of the most pathogenic
bacteria would be left alive. For example, Clostridium Botulinum resists irradiation below the
10-kilogray upper-limit for food processing. The toxin produced by Clostridium Botulinum
can cause botulism. It flourishes in anaerobic (oxygen free) conditions. This deadly pathogen
would not be destroyed by irradiation and in fact could even thrive. Irradiated food requires
some protection against re-contamination but the anaerobic growth-enhancing environment
for Clostridium Botulinum rules out the use of vacuum-sealed cans for this purpose. The "old
fashioned" canning of food done in the proper manner effectively eliminates botulism food
Salmonella Poisoning
Irradiation can kill some bacteria, those most sensitive to it, but it never removes toxins
already deposited in the food. For this reason, the cleanliness and health of food chosen
for preservation can never be neglected. Moreover, food irradiation should not be allowed to
replace sanitary handling of food. The nuclear industry is promoting food irradiation
primarily as a preventative action against Salmonella in poultry. From 1983 -1985, there
were 28 deaths in ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoftcom:office:smarttags" />Canada attributed to Salmonella poisoning. Present statistics are
unknown at this time. The report of the standing committee on food irradiation from 1983 1985 notes that: "Relatively rough extrapolations have indicated that Salmonella may have
contributed to approximately 750 deaths in Canada in 1985, but actual statistics attributed
only 28 deaths to Salmonella from 1983 to 1985. Which figures may be more accurate is
unknown at this time, but Salmonella contamination is a major source of food poisoning
and a significant public health concern in Canada and elsewhere." Salmonella
contamination is due to improper handling techniques by processors, handlers, consumers
and restaurants. Mechanical cleaning of chickens (which bursts the gut) is the single greatest
cause of the problem. According to an article by economist R. Krystynak, irradiation of
poultry ranks sixth out of eleven methods of food processing investigated to control
Salmonella poisoning on a cost/benefit analysis basis. ("Current Concerns - Food Irradiation
An Economic Perspective", Food Market Commentary, Ottawa, Agriculture Canada
September 1986)
The Joint Expert Committee on Food Irradiation (J.E.C.F.I) declared (with a disclaimer) that
there would be no toxicological problems with irradiated food not exceeding an average dose
of 10 kilograys. It gave no specified minimum to ensure the killing of radiation sensitive
bacteria; nor did it specify a maximum, which would avoid the production of radiolytic byproducts or stimulation of the production of known harmful pathogens. It is well known
that irradiation can increase the production of some extremely toxic aflotoxins
by certain fungi, especially nuts and grains. These aflotoxins are known to be
extremely potent carcinogens and their ability to continue production following irradiation
has not been addressed by the Joint Committee. Proposing and average exposure only leaves
this technology open to widespread misuse.
Pesticides and other Chemical Hazards in Food
Irradiation fails to eliminate pesticide residues and other chemical hazards in
food. It has been proposed as an alternative to pesticides and preservatives. However preharvest pesticides will still be used, and their chemical interaction with irradiation is
unknown. Irradiated food will still require cooking, freezing, preservatives and
other means to avoid re-contamination.
Health and Welfare Canada generally depends on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
and the JECFI for their review of the scientific literature. For example, the Science Council
quotes the F.D.A. rejection of the abnormal blood cell findings reported by the National
Institute of Nutrition, N.I.N., Hyderabad, India, 1976, in children and animals fed irradiated
"A committee of Indian scientists critically examined the techniques, the
appropriateness of experimental design, the data collection and the interpretation of
NIN scientists this committee concluded that the bulk of these data are not only
mutually contradictory, but are also at variance with well-established
facts of biology."
It turns out that the "committee of Indian scientists" was two persons: Dr. P.C. Kesavan and
Dr. P.V. Sukhatme, appointed to resolve a dispute which arose when the Indian nuclear
establishment, Bhabba Atomic Research Center, refused to accept the NIN findings. The
NIN had immediately terminated their use of irradiated wheat to feed the
children when polyploidy ( chromosome damage) was noticed. The children's
blood slowly returned to normal. The NIN tested their findings on laboratory animals.
Sukhatme and Kesavan, refused to look at the NIN animal studies as being "outside of their
frame of reference". Even this committee's limited report was not available to the F.D.A.,
which had made their judgement on a leaked-abridged version. Obviously data on negative
health effects of irradiated wheat ingested by malnourished children deserves more serious
attention by supposed scientific bodies, especially when food irradiation is being proposed
for use in developing countries.
Both the U.S. F.D.A. and the Science Council of Canada attempt to minimize the effects of
food irradiation by quoting a report from Ames, Iowa, July 1986, (Report No. 9, Council for
Agricultural Science and Technology) saying that each kilogray of ionizing radiation breaks
only 6 chemical bonds out of 10 million in food. This makes the magnitude, the nature and
the biological impact of the breaks seem small. However, in 100 millilitres (or 0.1 litre) of
water there are 5-gram moles, that is 1025 molecules. At the low-dose of one kilogray, 6 times
1018 chemical bonds are broken creating the hydroxyl radical, one of the most reactive
entities known in biochemistry. Water makes up some 80% of most foods. Food irradiation
will be permitted to an average dose of 10 kilograys. There is no maximum permissible dose
mentioned in the regulations.
Labelling requirements for irradiated food offer no assurance to the
consumer that food has not been irradiated because there is no test to detect
irradiation. The flower-like radura symbol is misleading and should be accompanied with
the word "Irradiated". The wording should appear on all foods that have irradiated
ingredients. The proposed labelling exemption for irradiated ingredients that comprise less
than 10% is not acceptable. A food could contain six ingredients, each one less than 10% of
the whole, which together comprise 45% of the product. All irradiated ingredients at any
percentage in the food product should be listed. 
World Health Organization Ignored Hazards of Irradiated Foods, Declared
Them Safe
New Report Contains Evidence That Serious Health Problems Dismissed;
Emphasis Placed on Commercialization
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The World Health Organization (WHO), which has declared
irradiated foods safe for human consumption, has ignored a growing body of evidence clearly
indicating otherwise, according to a report released today by Public Citizen and Global
Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE). Despite this evidence, the WHO and
other international agencies are working to expand the legalization, commercialization and
consumer acceptance of irradiated foods, the report found.The WHO has dismissed 50 years'
worth of research documenting a wide range of serious health problems in
laboratory animals that ate irradiated foods, including premature death,
mutation, prenatal death and other reproductive problems, fatal internal
bleeding, suppressed immune systems, organ damage, tumors, stunted growth
and nutritional deficiencies, according to the report.The WHO also has dismissed recent
evidence linking cyclobutanones, chemical byproducts formed in certain
irradiated foods, to cancer development and tumors in rats, and genetic damage
in human cells, the report states. Cyclobutanones have never been found to occur naturally
in any food. Government officials throughout the world, including the United States, have
relied on the WHO's findings to legalize food irradiation. In the United States, beef,
poultry, pork, fruits, vegetables, eggs, wheat, spices and sprouting seeds can
legally be irradiated."The WHO's negligence could put at risk the health of millions of
people throughout the world. These risks will only deepen as food supply systems become
more globalized," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and
Environment Program. "It is irresponsible to promote the use of a questionable method
while ignoring evidence that points to the dangers associated with it."Bad Taste reveals that,
despite mounting evidence to the contrary, the WHO proclaimed in 1999 that "treating"
foods with high doses of ionizing radiation "does not result in any toxicological hazard." "The
WHO's job is to protect the health of the world's citizens – not use them as guinea pigs for
experimental food products," said Alice Slater, president of GRACE. "The WHO should
immediately get out of the irradiated food business."
The report also found that:
? The WHO has abandoned its original research agenda crafted in 1961, which urged
comprehensive research on the basic human health implications of irradiated foods.
? The WHO has ceded to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose mission is
preserving the nuclear industry, not the health of people, the ultimate power of researching
the safety of irradiated foods. The IAEA is leading a global campaign to further the
legalization, commercialization and consumer acceptance of irradiated foods. "We must
confer with experts in the various fields of advertising and psychology to put the public at
ease," one IAEA report states. The consultants recommended that "identification of the
process should not be required on the label."
? The IAEA and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also have
misrepresented a vast body of research that revealed health problems in animals that ate
irradiated foods and stated instead that no such problems were attributable to irradiation.
Further, some compelling research was omitted from key WHO reports.
Public Citizen and GRACE recommend the following:
The WHO should promptly shift the focus of its peer-reviewed research into the core
safety and wholesomeness issues and investigate the presence of various toxic
chemicals in irradiated foods.
The WHO, IAEA and FAO should immediately withdraw their endorsements of
irradiation for all foods at any dose and refrain from recommending the further
expansion of food irradiation.
The United Nations should appoint an independent panel of experts from the fields of
toxicology, food science, radiation chemistry and nutrition to conduct a
comprehensive review of the WHO, IAEA and FAO activities related to food

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