Our industrialized agricultural system not only results in lots of food, but lots of dirty food. In today's Spokesman review we have an article about irradiating food to make it safer.
Irradiated meat has been around for years, particularly ground beef, a favorite hiding spot for E. coli. About 15 million to 18 million pounds of U.S. ground beef are irradiated every year, says Ron Eustice of the Minnesota Beef Council.
That’s a tiny fraction of the nation’s hamburger, and it must be labeled so consumers can choose – although some retailers advertise irradiated hamburger as a safety selling point. Thorough cooking kills E. coli and other germs, but people don’t always get their meat hot enough.
Still, Americans get more irradiated foods than they realize. About a third of commercial spices – the kind added to processed foods – are irradiated, says Eustice, who’s also a consultant to the Food Irradiation Processing Alliance.
About 30 million pounds of imported produce, mostly fruits such as guavas and mangoes, get a low-dose zap, not enough to kill germs but to kill any foreign insects along for the ride.
I wonder if we're considering nature's ability and propensity to adapt. Bacteria have evolved to withstand antibiotics. Can't germs and bugs evolve to withstand irradiation? We may find out fifty years from now.
Irradiation isn’t an excuse for dirty produce, [Dr. Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota infectious disease specialist] says. It’s far better to prevent contamination on the farm or in the processing plant than to try to get rid of it later. But it’s impossible to prevent all animal-borne bacteria in open fields.
There’s no reason to fear irradiation, but “there’s no silver bullet here,” cautions food-safety expert Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Irradiation doesn’t kill viruses that also sometimes taint food, and it adds to the food’s price, she says. Consumers’ biggest desire: Make cleaner food in the first place.
The underlying message there: Buy local - You're less likely to eat s#!t.