The facts about food irradiation

Published Dec 27, 2021 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / digicomphoto

Millions of people around the world have ditched the convenience of microwaves in fear that they might be leaking potentially dangerous radiation into homes and offices. Meanwhile, a fair number of them are probably consuming irradiated food without even knowing it. Here we will answer some of the most important questions about the practice, including, is food irradiation dangerous? How often are we relying on this remedial method, and then, of course, what exactly does this all have to do with weed?

1. Food irradiation kills both good and bad bacteria

Irradiation is the process of shooting ionizing radiation at food products to kill any potential bacteria, and on the surface, this sounds like a really good thing because it’s effective. Unfortunately, what we don’t see being taken into consideration is the fact that irradiation is just as good at killing good bacteria that we need in our diet to stay healthy.

2. Irradiated food is already on the market

You might not realize this, but no matter where you live, there are likely several different types of food in your local grocery that were irradiated before they made it onto a shelf. In Canada, onions, potatoes, wheat, flour, whole and ground spices, and dehydrated seasonings are all often treated with radiation to remove contaminants and prolong shelf life. The United States is even more lenient, allowing irradiation for beef, pork, molluscan shellfish, eggs, fresh fruit, vegetables, lettuce, spinach, spices, seasonings, and seeds (for growing).

3. Irradiation is often used to cover up other industry issues

Food irradiation can be used to disguise poor conditions in both slaughterhouses and processing plants, allowing some of the world's largest companies to produce and sell products that are contaminated. Even though it does seem to make the food temporarily safe as far as industry standards are concerned, irradiated foods are still prone to recalls, which suggests that there’s a much larger issue at play in our food supply chain.

4. Food irradiation is damaging to vitamins and nutrients

While irradiation manages to kill bacteria, that’s not the only thing that ends up destroyed in this process, as radiation is known to have a detrimental impact on vitamin A, B1, C, and E. Irradiated food products may lose anywhere from 2%-95% in vitamin content, a staggering number that is rarely mentioned when regulatory agencies talk about how this process is supposedly for our own good.

5. We have no scientific evidence to show that food irradiation is safe

The goal of food irradiation is to eliminate salmonella, E.coli, and other microbials to prevent early expiration and contamination, which is great, except that it also increases the risk of spawning radiation-resistant bacteria, and there is absolutely no evidence that this practice is safe. In fact, some experts say that every single bite of irradiated food increases the risk of cancer. Still, we allow it, and government regulators turn the other cheek as we take a wait-and-see approach instead of acting on the evidence we have that suggests it isn’t as safe as we’d like to think.

What’s this got to do with weed?

You might be wondering, ‘what on earth does this have to do with weed?’ The answer my friends is everything - the green industry is becoming more reliant than ever before on irradiation. As industry rules tighten even further, all producers - regardless of size or good growing practices - are going to be forced to make a choice between sacrificing quality and following the law. The majority have no option but to make the change, and just as we see with food, that is likely to be devastating for the overall health of consumers.

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