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Lettuce And Spinach To Be Secretly Irradiated! Say It Isn’t So!

Written by Wellness Club on September 4, 2008 – 1:55 pm -

It Isn’t So!

There has been somewhat of a flurry of outrage recently with the FDA announcement that on August 22, 2008, they published a final rule allowing the use of irradiation on fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach. The FDA claims that this will make them "safer and last longer without spoiling."

Opponents are claiming all sorts of evil ranging from the destruction of all nutritive value in treated foods (not that there is much these days anyway – see Dr. Myatt’s article "Vitaminless Vegetables") to actually causing the consumers of irradiated food to "glow in the dark"!

So where is the truth in all of this? Somewhere in the middle, as usual.

It is true that irradiation of food can kill certain bacteria, this rendering the food safer and less susceptible to spoilage – a boon to consumers who are less likely to become ill from eating contaminated food, and for the food industry who can enjoy a longer shelf-life and thus increased profits.

It is also true that irradiation affects, alters, and reduces the nutritive values of foods – the FDA says as much in their "Final Rule" printed in the Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 164 / Friday, August 22, 2008 / Rules and Regulations. (Warning: this is a stupefyingly boring paper to read!)

According to this paper the FDA also reassures us that it really doesn’t matter that the nutritive values of foods are altered and vitamins are destroyed – after all, the FDA would have us believe that vitamins are not really necessary for health beyond the tiny amounts of the RDA’s…

It is certainly NOT true that eating irradiated foods will cause someone to "glow in the dark" as one well-known activist wrote!

In response to an article by that activist, who has a large readership for his very popular newsletter, we received this note from one of our HealthBeat News readers who is also a friend and neighbor:

This was recently sent to me … just makes me crazy.  Thought you might find it interesting.
Hope all if well with both of you.
Jamie O

Jamie then referred us to a very alarmist article by "Health Ranger" Mike Adams posted on his website where he reports "beginning today, spinach and lettuce sold across the United States may now be secretly irradiated before it reaches grocery store shelves."

This is the same article where he warns that those who eat irradiated foods will "glow in the dark."

Folks, you need to know that I am no friend of the FDA – I think that it is a bureaucracy out-of-control.

I also think that the jury is still out on the irradiation of food – I’m not yet convinced that it is entirely safe or healthy though I do concede that it is certainly effective for it’s stated purpose.

I further think that writer Mike Adams, the self-described "Health Ranger", makes some good points about many things – there is much we agree upon.

But for heaven’s sakes, let’s ease up on the rhetoric! I feel that there is nothing to be gained, and everything to be lost, by the sort of alarmist writing and outright fabrications that his article present. This kind of writing just gets us all branded as "nut-balls" and "conspiracy theorists" and diminishes our credibility.

Let’s look at this "Health Ranger" article:

Adams’ first claim is that "spinach and lettuce sold across the United States may now be secretly irradiated before it reaches grocery store shelves" further claiming that "irradiated foods will not be labeled as such, and consumers are going to be left in the dark about all this".

Unfortunately, Adams’ article contains no references to tell me where he found this information – I had to look for it myself and after much research I must conclude that this just isn’t true.

According to several FDA documents, "Irradiation of iceberg lettuce and spinach is voluntary on the part of food processors. FDA requires that foods that have been irradiated bear the "radura" logo along with the statement "Treated with radiation" or "Treated by irradiation.""

This regulation is found in a number of sources, including the FDA press release regarding irradiation of lettuce and spinach: – there are also statements regarding mandatory labeling here: and here: – They seem pretty clear to me…

Next Adams gives us his "glow in the dark" statement. This is pure alarmist hyperbole, and is so silly that it is not really worth commenting on. Just shake your head in amazement that he (or his editors) would allow this to be published and move on…

Then Adams claims that "The FDA, of course, insists that the levels of irradiation used to kill e.coli will have no effect whatsoever on the nutritional value of the food."

This again is not quite true: As I read through the Federal Register referred to in this article it is quite clear that the FDA is aware that a number of nutrients are adversely affected by irradiation – they just don’t think it matters very much.

Adams further claims that irradiation removes all the nutritive value from food by destroying all phytonutrients: "lowering the value to zero by destroying all the phytonutrients does not, in the opinion of the FDA, alter its nutritional value at all."

I have a little bit of a problem with the absolute nature of this statement – my review of available research indicates that irradiation does indeed alter and reduce some nutrient, phytonutrient, and vitamin levels – but it does not somehow mysteriously suck all the nutritive value from food – that is just silly.

Adams does lighten up a bit with the next statement: "irradiating food destroys much of its nutritional content, including vitamins, carotenoids, anthocyanins and other delicate protective nutrients that are right now providing the last, desperate nutritional defense against the American diet of meat, milk, fried foods and processed junk."

Fair enough – so perhaps irradiation only destroys some of the nutritive value – but if Americans are relying on that silly little bit of wilted lettuce and soggy slice of tomato to transform their deluxe cheeseburger and fries into something even remotely healthy they are sadly, tragically misinformed.

What really upsets me with the "Health Ranger" and this article is that it is clearly misleading and very alarming – obviously written to "stir up" and agitate his audience who he feels will accept these statements at face value as some sort of "gospel truth." He gets away with this by failing to provide any references for his statements. If the FDA has stated that labeling is not necessary for example, where is the reference to the FDA document where this can be found?

Like many HealthBeat rea
ders, I will continue to read Adams’ articles – but I’m afraid he has lost forever some of the confidence and trust that I had in his work.

The moral of this story? Be sure, when you read any health article that is making any sort of claim that there are verifiable references for what is being said.

Opinion is one thing – but if something is being presented as a statement of fact, well, if it ain’t referenced, it ain’t so!

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