Irradiated Food

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Irradiated Food

The Facts About Food Irradiation

adapted from Frontier Natural Products Co-Op.This report is presented here because it addresses an important nutritional issue that is hidden from view. Few professionals in the organic food movement or alternative medicine movement are aware of the facts presented by Frontier in the following essay taken off its website.

  • What is "Irradiation?"
  • Gary Gibbs, D.O., An Authority on Food Irradiation
  • Meals Ready to Eat (MRE)

What is irradiation?
Irradiation is a process by which foods are exposed to as much as 3,000,000 rads of radiation in order to kill insects and bacteria and extend shelf life. These doses are millions of times greater than that of an ordinary chest X-ray (which is approximately 20 millirad = 20 thousandths of one rad). Some of the cells are altered by the radiation. Any mineral (metal) molecule in the package becomes highly radioactive in itself, radiomimetic. A tiny atom bomb.

Which foods, how much radiation?
Dried spices are allowed the highest radiation treatment level by far. There are several reasons for this. First, the FDA considers spices a minor part of our diets and theorizes that the effects on our bodies are diluted by the foods they season. Second, the low moisture content in spices is said to make them safer to irradiate. Finally, spices are irradiated for the purpose of controlling both insects and microorganisms, and it takes high doses of radiation to kill microorganisms.

Is irradiation dangerous?
The danger of ingesting irradiated foods is scientifically unproven because high quality, long-term studies haven't been done. Nobody wants to spend money to prove that used oats are dangerous. The process uses radioactive isotopes. The workers in irradiation facilities and the people and animals in nearby communities are at daily risk of exposure from potential leaks. And leaks do occur. Radioactive materials must be transported to and from the more than 40 irradiation sites around the country. Traffic accidents involving radioactive materials pose a threat to people and land. Several such leaks and accidents have been documented.

What do we know?
Irradiation can result in the creation of new chemicals, called unique radiolytic products in foods. These include known carcinogens like benzene, formaldehyde and certain peroxides. The FDA has concluded that the amount of any toxic chemical created by allowable levels of irradiation is too small to be (statistically) significant. But foods cannot be tested to determine that the proper amount of radiation was used. So doubt persists, bouyed by the studies which suggest that irradiation may be linked to cancer and birth defects, and that irradiation destroys nutrients essential to human health such as vitamin C, thiamin, vitamin E and polyunsaturated fats.

How was irradiation developed?
Food irradiation was developed in the 1950's as part of the "Atoms for Peace" program by the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission). The goal of the program was to establish non-military uses for the radioactive waste products of nuclear weapons production. Today, the food irradiation industry is a private, for-profit business. Like other nuclear industries, the food irradiation industry is regulated and licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Doesn't irradiation make foods safer?
Irradiation can kill most of the E. coli bacteria and salmonella present in food, but so can proper cooking and hygienic preparation, which carry none of the risks. The allowable doses of radiation are enough to kill these two bacteria and the bacteria that signal spoilage through a foul odor. They aren't enough to kill the bacteria that causes botulism. So irradiation removes the warning signs we rely on to determine when foods are dangerous to eat.

Which foods may be irradiated?
Only dried spices are irradiated regularly in the U.S. at this time. However fresh fruits, vegetables, pork, poultry, nuts and teas and beef have all been approved for irradiation by the FDA. The FDA estimates that 40% of the foods we eat might ultimately be irradiated.

Why can't I trust the FDA's decision?
Although 441 toxicity studies were completed by the date of the agency's official ruling, the FDA based its conclusion on only five; all others were discarded as improperly conducted. Since the ruling, two of these studies have been criticized by the New Jersey Medical School for using flawed methodologies, either for poor statistical analyses or because negative data was discarded. In a third, animals experienced weight loss and miscarriage that was believed to be caused by irradiation-induced vitamin E deficiency.

How can I tell if food is irradiated?
The FDA requires that the radura symbol along with a written warning of radiation treatment be placed on any whole foods that have been irradiated, such as chickens or fresh tomatoes or eggs. However, if those same items are used as ingredients no label is required. That means that any prepackaged or processed food containing more than one ingredient could be irradiated. And neither delicatessens nor restaurants are required to reveal whether their ingredients have been irradiated. Today there is no way to know exactly what you are taking into your body when you eat something cooked out of sight by a stranger, then delivered to you on a plate or in a can or a freeze dried package.


Ninety percent of the foregoing irradiation report was written by Frontier, premier supplier of bulk herbs and spices untouched by government hands. From the facts of the foregoing: the little bottles and cans of spices and herbs flying under one name or another in your supermart are serious poisons. And every commercially manufactured food item, no exceptions, is highly suspect for irradiation. There is no way for you to determine the truth. You are rendered perpetually ignorant, but not helpless. You can depart the commercial, supermart and restaurant food channel—cook it yourself with only organic ingredients; refrigerate and freeze it; brown bag it to school and work.

These poisons are approved and sponsored by the United States federal government. The agency responsible for this official approval to offer you atomic energy poison, radioactive minerals, is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This agency is specifically chartered to protect you and me from exactly such poisons. This is not error, or innocent ignorance by Ph.D.s and poor, dumb government payrollers. They know exactly what they are doing.

An Authority On Food Radiation

Exclusive Interview by Jonathan Wright, M.D., with Gary Gibbs, D.O. in the Nutrition & Healing newsletter, May 1995. Dr. Gary Gibbs was completing a residency in psychiatry at St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. He is author of The Food That Would Last Forever: Understanding The Dangers Of Food Irradiation. This interview was published in May 1995, 28 months before the FDA announced in December 1997 that it had approved irradiation of beef to protect the public from E.coli.

Q Radiation of our food supply has received relatively little media attention. FDA policy has allowed most irradiated food to be sold to the public since 1963 without so much as a disclosure label. Thank you for bringing this information to our attention in your recent book.

You're welcome, Dr. Wright, and I am glad to speak with you and the readers of Nutrition & Healing. The potential harm from radiated foods is very real and very frightening.

Q A nearly universal belief in natural medicine is that the introduction into human bodies of molecules never found before in nature is very likely to be harmful. Does the irradiation of food create such molecules?

Absolutely. Food is exposed to hard irradiation, usually gamma rays from a source like cobalt-80, in doses of 100,000 to 3,000,000 rads. A mere 10,000 rads will totally destroy any living tissue. These enormous doses of gamma rays create molecules originally called radiotoxines by Russian researchers. The FDA calls radiotoxines radiolytic by-products, and classifies them as known radiolytic products, such as formaldehyde and benzene, which are known carcinogens, and as unique radiolytic products, which are chemical molecules that have never before been characterized.

In addition to creating molecules never before characterized, and other toxic molecules, does radiation destroy beneficial nutrients?

Of course. About 30% of the Vitamin C is destroyed. Milk is known to lose 70% of Vitamin A, B1 and B2 when irradiated. Vitamins E, K, and the entire B group, amino acids and essential fatty acids, are all known to be adversely affected.

While destroying nutrients, radiation actually accelerates the growth of molds?

Specifically, one mold, aspergillus, which produces the most potent known natural carcinogens, called aflatoxins. One study, conducted by FDA itself in 1979, demonstrated that food irradiation increases aflatoxin production by more than one-hundred-fold! The title of FDA's own study was Increase in Aflatoxin Secondary to Irradiation.

Don't they read their own material?

It's shocking, and it gets worse.

What happens when irradiated foods are eaten?

Animal studies are clear. In FDA's final report approving food radiation, they wrote that when up to 35% of the lab-animal diet was radiated, chronic feeding studies had to be terminated because of premature mortality or morbidity.

This is in the report approving food irradiation?


Give us some specifics, please.

At the University of Illinois, the Department of Medicine fed radiated food to mice. Seventeen percent had to be killed or died because of respiratory problems so severe they couldn't even move around their cages. They did autopsies. The hearts of the mice had enlarged to twice to three times normal, and in some cases had burst. This is so often seen in animal feeding studies with radiated food that it's commonly referred to as the hemorrhagic syndrome.

Researchers at the Medical College of Virginia fed rats irradiated beef. All the male rats died of hemorrhagic syndrome within 34 days. They investigated the effect of hormones by castrating a group of male rats and then feeding them irradiated beef. They all died within 63 days, as did all the female rats.

In another study, at the University of Michigan, researchers radiated sucrose, table sugar, a very common ingredient in many foods, and then stored it for months. They then made up a white blood cell culture medium with less than 1% of the radiated sucrose, and a control culture medium with the same amount of non-radiated sucrose.

They grew white blood cells, lymphocytes, in both culture media. The researchers reported that the culture medium with radiated sucrose was extremely toxic to lymphocytes. Cell division was reduced, and the chromosomes were grossly damaged. The researchers were unable to determine the exact frequency of chromosome breakage because of the poor condition of so many cells in which the chromosomes appeared to be shattered or pulverized.

The lymphocytes themselves were never radiated in this Michigan study?

Never. Just the sucrose, and remember, that made up less than 1% of the culture medium. The lymphocytes in the non-radiated solution were perfectly fine.

So, even though the lymphocytes themselves were never radiated, they looked as if they had been when exposed to the radiated culture medium.

Yes. And that brings up a key term: “radiomimetic,” which literally means mimicking radiation. Exposing lymphocytes to an even slightly irradiated culture medium makes them look like they'd actually been radiated themselves. In general, irradiated food has a radiomimetic effect.

Are there human studies?

The only one reviewed by FDA was done at the National Institute of Nutrition in India. Fifteen chronically malnourished children were divided into three groups of five and fed freshly irradiated wheat, stored irradiated wheat, and non-irradiated wheat. Four of five children who ate the freshly irradiated wheat developed strikingly abnormal white blood cells, a condition known as polyploidy, commonly associated with direct exposure to radiation. That radiomimetic effect of eating irradiated food…. whereas none of the control group showed these changes. The children who ate the stored irradiated wheat were in between.

Has this study been repeated?

The researchers considered it unethical to do so.

Apparently all other researchers since then have felt the same way... we have chromosome damage in children and in lymphocyte cultures, and premature mortality and hemorrhagic syndrome in experimental animals… and FDA approval. How many research studies did FDA review in reaching their approval?

That's an interesting story. They started with 441 studies, including those I just mentioned. They accepted 226 for further review. They further narrowed their criteria, and selected only 69 for in-depth review. Of these, FDA itself reported that 32, or 46%, showed adverse effects, and 37 suggested safety. Then, without explanation, they eliminated all but 5 of these 69 including all 32 adverse ones, and announced they'd make a decision on those 5 alone.

Sounds just a little biased. What foods are approved to be radiated?

Quite a list. Fruits, vegetables, wheat, flour, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, peas, pork, and chicken. Right now they're considering beef.

Those are approved. How much is actually radiated, and how can we as consumers know if a particular food item has been irradiated?

Right now I believe it's a small amount, but FDA is deliberately making it very difficult for consumers to obtain information.

This sounds just like what they're doing to prevent accurate labeling of milk from cows treated with bovine growth hormone (BGH or BST).


Please tell us how the labeling requirement for radiated food usually results in no label disclosure at all.

The FDA requires a label only if whole food is irradiated and then sold unchanged. But if you process it in any way, or add any other ingredient to it, no label disclosure is required. For example, an irradiated whole tomato would require a label, but making it into tomato soup or ketchup would eliminate the need for labeling.

Even though it's the same irradiated tomato?

The very same.

That's consumer deception, not consumer protection or consumer information!

No, Jonathan, that's just FDA.

Isn't food radiation being pushed to cover up big problems with unsanitary food handling and processing?

Of course. Radiation kills salmonella in unsanitary chicken, and mutant E.coli from feces in unsanitary beef-processing practices. It's estimated that 30% of ground beef is contaminated with E.coli right now.

So cleaning up the food supply would eliminate much of the perceived need to radiate food?

Yes. But it would require more care and more expense.

Which might explain some of the interest groups pushing food radiation. Tell us who they are please.

Mostly industry and government. The poultry industry, the National Food Processors Association, which is made up of 600 food processing companies including almost all the major ones, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the FDA of course, the Department of Energy, the International Atomic Energy Association, the World Health Organization.

What can individuals who aren't willing to risk eating radiated, radiomimetic foods do to protect themselves?

They can inform themselves and others, and demand labeling of any food containing a radiated ingredient. Write and call the food processing companies and the Congress. My book, The Food That Would Last Forever, has addresses and telephone numbers for about a dozen of the biggest food processors.

Thank you, Dr. Gibbs.

[Ed. COMMENTS—December 2000. Dr. Gibbs missed the boat on that last response. Don't waste your time and money protesting this kind of studious insanity. Eat only food you cook yourself bought from only organic non-toxic agriculture sources. It's easier than you think. Simple meals from basic commodities can be spiced up into hundreds of variations. This is called voting with your feet.

And besides, you'll save 20% to 50% of your current food budget. You'll eat less, and keep the money you would have paid strangers to cook your food in faraway places. Just cutting out restaurants, including the fast-food types, will produce a surplus in your monthly budget. The reason you'll eat less is that your built-in survival systems won't crave nutrients it isn't getting that creates constant hunger in you. A meal cooked with only organic ingredients satisfies at all levels. The organic food channel, from farm to shelf, has been growing at the rate of 20% per year. It is being driven by the young, college educated, higher income families. The trend setters.]


They are battlefield rations meant for young, strong warriors to live on for a couple of days at a time. Unfortunately, they are totally poisonous because they have been irradiated to kill off anything alive. This converts every molecule containing an atom of mineral (metal) into a tiny radioactive bomb. The nuking of MREs is to render them so sterile that they have an unlimited non-refrigerated shelf life. Forever! This item is here because the government contractors producing this weapon have made the kit available to camping/food storage channels.

Learn how to make homemade rainwater into a universal medicine for just a few cents per dose, three doses per day on our other website Then Back-button to return here. END