Health Team

Radiated Fruit and Veggies Could Come to Stores

Posted April 14, 2008

A form of radiation might be the way to stop the spread of food-borne illnesses, such as E. coli and salmonella, that hospitalize hundreds of thousands of people each year.

Scientists linked bagged spinach to a widespread, deadly outbreak of salmonella in 2006. Since, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been looking for means to kill bacteria on food.

Researchers presented their answer to the American Chemical Society this week: Irradiate fruit and vegetables with gamma rays.

"It kills the bacteria, makes it so they're not able to reproduce and not able to make you sick," microbiologist Dr. Brendan Niemira, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said. "It works. It's very effective, and it doesn't harm the food."

The federal Food and Drug Administration approved the use of irradiation on meat. The method, though, is rarely used, because most E. coli and salmonella bacteria are killed when meat is cooked completely.

Proper washing is the most commonly used protection for raw fruits and vegetables, but experts say it only kills 90 percent of contaminants.

"Irradiation, on the other hand, reduced it by 99.99 percent," Niemira said.

Government research shows that irradiation is safe for produce, but can zap out important vitamins and nutrients if it is overused.

The FDA must approve its use for fruits and vegetables.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • methinkthis Apr 17, 2008

    Luddites remember great ideas like don't nurse your baby, bottle formula is better. How about when we had xrays of our feet to see how our shoes fit. Great technological advance! One of my personal favorites is dermatologists treating acne with UV radiation. If you want to prove this process is OK, then zap samples of all the food planned to be treated and do detailed analysis of the nutritional content. This analysis needs to evaluate the effect on all the enzymes. After we see the results then we can perhaps properly determine the appropriateness of this 'technological advance'. Are we just adding cost to the food cycle because people do not take proper precautions. Maybe we need to have bacteria zappers in the door ways of all public restrooms for those who do not wash their hands after ...."Have you zapped your body today?"

  • CestLaVie Apr 17, 2008

    Don't mess with my food is right. There's been too much "messing" for decades now & we're all paying the price with our health, or death. There's garbage in just about everything we consume these days. Let buyers beware.

  • discowhale Apr 17, 2008

    I knew this story would have clear cut supporters and detractors. It's the same knee jerk reaction that always happens with new technology. The Luddites crawl out of heir caves to tell us the sky is falling (again).

    why do military people get more gamma radiation than anyone else? And who says they have more mental / health problems than the general populace? Back up your statements somehow.

    And don't say nuke-ya-ler weapons either, 99% of military people never get close to those.

  • thinkbee Apr 16, 2008

    Goldsborowolf is right on! If we keep trying to make everything bacteria free, we'll lose the antibodies to fight more harmful bacteria. Don't mess with my food!

  • charlesboyer Apr 16, 2008

    Goldsboro, you take the Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella enteritidis, or parasites like Giardia lamblia or one I have personally had courtesy of the NYC water supply, Cryptosporidia. I'll take the irradiated food knowing I won't be spewing violently from every pore in my body for three days.

  • CestLaVie Apr 15, 2008

    I'm with you, Goldsboro and scubagirl.

  • GoldsboroWolf 98 Apr 15, 2008

    charlesboyer, who's to say all of these military men and women with mental/health issues after so many years of service isn't caused by this irradiation? Leave my food alone! Don't people realize that your body is composed of BILLIONS of bacteria. How do we not know that this bacteria is kept in balance by eating some raw foods (with the bacteria still in it)? Is it just a coincidence that people are healthier who eat more fruits and vegetables? If we keep manipulating the natural food cycle, we will end up with even more health issues than we already have.

  • charlesboyer Apr 15, 2008

    People have been conditioned to panic when they hear the word "radiation." That's very illogical, considering that there is always a certain amount of background radiation present and it has no known health effects.

    The Army has been irradiating food for decades and there have been no known ill effects from it.

  • telecaster Apr 15, 2008

    ...and it sounds like a great way to start a new super hero. ...."and on that day the gamma radiation was 100 times the normal does, after eating it mild mannered Skip Bistro becomes super spinach boy..." or something like that.

  • MoroccoMole Apr 15, 2008

    It's time and past time for this technology to come to the market. It uses ionizing radiation, so once the irradiation is complete there is no residual in the food. The only negative I have ever seen concerning it is that in some foods and at some doses you slightly reduce the vitamin content. Slightly.

    The first prototype produce irradiator I saw was over 20 years ago in a research project. Had this been deployed a decade ago, how much sickness and how many deaths could we have avoided?

    I am far far more concerned about the bacteria that my children might ingest from contaminated uncoocked food, such as salad greens, especially prepackaged ready to eat items. You can be assured that if this comes to market I will be actively seeking products bearing an 'irradiated' label, and encouraging anyone else that might give them food (grandparents, school) to do the same.