Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Irradiate this...

I've been reading about the horrible condition of our food producing system since I was a teenager. It has gone past horrible to deplorable. Now, in an attempt to compensate for cleanliness, the government is going to allow irradiation of spinach and lettuce and, at the same time, going to relax the reporting of irradiation (see release below).

I'll say up front that I don't know how to fix the system. We are mass producing foods and the cost to do so are astronomical. Adding the irradiation layer is, by the way, going to increase the cost of certain foods. Seems to me it would be cheaper in the long run to just use a bit of common sense cleanliness and improve the system rather than trying to kill our foods.

It's bad enough already that by the time they get through processing food there's barely any nutritional value left.

This year I grew my own tomatoes and realized anew just how horrible store-bought tomatoes really are! Talk about a taste difference. I may try to figure out how to grow some indoors through the winter now that my bushes have slowed down production. Next year I'm going to add a few more favorites to the garden. I may have to try my hand at spinach, which is one of my favorites. I've already switched to the more costly organic version and wash it again no matter what the bag says about being pre-washed.

E.coli doesn't come from people not washing the lettuce well enough, it comes from people doing things in public waters and near public waters that shouldn't be done. Put in more toilets and fire anyone who doesn't use them. Voila, 99% of the problem solved.

OK, here's a gross thought... we talk about the potential for terrorists to poison our food supply? Nah, I'm not going to paint the picture that flashed through my mind as I typed the previous paragraph, you have just as warped an imagination as yours truly I'm sure .

Here's the release (older, but I'm just getting to that date as I'm going through my in-box, sorry if I've missed your email!) - jmd

Feds Approve Irradiation of Spinach, Lettuce - Opponents say irradiation no substitute for careful handling of food

August 22, 2008

Irradiation
• Feds Approve Irradiation of Spinach, Lettuce
• FDA Proposes Relaxing Irradiation Labeling
• Irradiation Debate Flares Amid Food Poisoning Outbreaks
• Study: Irradiation Could Reduce Food-Borne Illness
• Irradiated Food Saves Lives, Study Finds
• USDA Approves Expanded Irradiation of Meat, Poultry
---
• More about Food Safety ...
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has flashed a green light for two green vegetables to be zapped with radiation to kill bacteria and reduce foodborne illness. The FDA said the process would also give the produce a longer shelf life.
Both spinach and lettuce were associated with recent outbreaks of E. coli. Hundreds of consumers nationwide were sickened in late 2006 and dozens had to be hospitalized.
Although it is controversial, the irradiation process is nothing new. It has already been approved for use on meat, poultry, and shellfish such as oysters, mussels and clams.

Some consumer groups, including Public Citizen, oppose irradiation, saying it is not as effective as its proponents claim and is a substitute for filthy conditions in the food chain.

"That 5,000 people in the United States die every year from foodborne illnesses is tragic," said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "Food producers need to address the source of the problem -- too fast processing lines and dirty conditions at plants -- not promote an expensive, impractical and ineffective technology like irradiation."

Irradiation does not kill all the bacteria in food and may undermine other food safety efforts by masking filthy conditions and encouraging improper handling, Hauter said.

Grocers' petition

The FDA said it acted in response to a joint petition by the National Food Processors Association — now the Grocery Manufacturers Association — and The Food Irradiation Coalition. In 2000 the groups asked the FDA to approve radiation for a large number of foods, but scaled back the request to focus on higher-priority foods.

Both spinach and lettuce were seen as prime candidates because of their susceptibility to bacteria. The FDA said both have textured leaves that serve as an ideal habitat for E. coli bacteria, and both are usually eaten raw. Cooking often kills the bacteria.

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control log about 76 million cases of E.coli and other types of food poisoning each year. Symptoms are wide-ranging and can include abdominal cramps, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Often, serious kidney damage can occur.

"That 5,000 people in the United States die every year from foodborne illnesses is tragic," said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "Food producers need to address the source of the problem -- too fast processing lines and dirty conditions at plants -- not promote an expensive, impractical and ineffective technology like irradiation."

Irradiation does not kill all the bacteria in food and may undermine other food safety efforts by masking filthy conditions and encouraging improper handling, Hauter said.

She said irradiation can mask filthy conditions in today's mega-sized livestock slaughterhouses and food processing plants. Slaughterhouses process up to 400 cows per hour or 200 birds per minute, posing an enormous sanitation challenge where E. coli, Salmonella and other potentially deadly food-borne pathogens can be spread through feces, urine and pus.

"Americans do not want to eat feces and pus even if it has been irradiated," Hauter said. "Instead of encouraging expensive treatments like irradiation, USDA should give meat inspectors the tools to test products at the plant and ensure that contaminated meat never reaches restaurants or supermarket shelves."

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