Nine years ago, US food makers asked the FDA to let them radiate food to destroy insects, parasites and pathogenic bacteria like E. coli and salmonella before it hit the shelves.
The Feds did nothing until 3 years ago, just after spinach laced with E. coli killed 3 and sickened 200. That’s when they permitted the irradiation of spinach and lettuce, only.
Of course no one’s gotten around to doing that yet, but whatever.
The FDA does allow meat irradiation, but alas no one does that either.
In fact pretty much the only food getting zapped these days are spices and random imported products like Indian mangoes, according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, a chorus of food experts are shouting to anyone who’ll listen that widespread pre-market food irradiation would greatly reduce the incidence of food poisoning in this country.
Which might be a good thing since the CDC estimates there are 76 million incidents of food-borne illness per year in the US, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths like the ones traced to a Georgia facility owned by the now bankrupt Peanut Corporation of America.
Not to mention the government has long since gone on record saying food irradiation is safe, the technology has been available since Pearl Harbor, and there are irradiation centers already in place all over the US. They are currently used to sterilize medical supplies.
So what’s up?
Not much, really. Food producers think the benefits wouldn’t be worth the cost increases that would, of course, have to be passed on to consumers.
Some consumer groups don’t want widespread irradiation because it would hide a multitude of food industry sins, which is the moral equivalent of saying “just to prove what a lousy trapeze artist you are, we’re going to remove the safety nets.”
And the occasional wacko can still get some to believe that irradiated food turns people into tadpoles.
“We have ways to prevent illness and death that aren’t being used,” Christine Bruhn, director of UC Davis’ Center for Consumer Research sighed to the Times.