11/1/2008online: 11/1/2008

US: Irradiated lettuce safe, beneficial

Source of Article: http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=32276

The Food and Drug Administration has just approved a technique that's supposed to protect you from dangerous bacteria irradiating lettuce. The low dose of radiation is used to kill off E. coli and salmonella, which can live and breed on lettuce. But the idea has a lot of people concerned. "It's hard to get past that idea that anything that is irradiated is safe and that it doesn't have radioactivity in it," said Tigard microbiologist Kim Hutchinson, whose company Biologic Resources tests food before it hits the market. "The two are entirely different."

In fact, radiation has been proven to be safe. It's been used to treat meats and spices for several years with no negative side effects. As for concern that the treatment kills even the nutrients in the lettuce, Hutchinson said it is not true.
So far the FDA has only approved the practice for iceberg lettuce and spinach, both pre-packaged and loose leaf varieties. Irradiated foods will have the "Radura" logo (pictured at right) on the packaging along with the statement "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation."

It's important to note, though, that the radiation will kill bacteria but not viruses so you still need to wash your produce before eating it. A major reason for the move was the recent E. coli outbreak involving spinach that killed three people and sickened nearly 200 more. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300,000 people are hospitalized and 5,000 die from food-borne illnesses annually. "These are very deadly, very dangerous organisms and this is one more means of killing those bacteria," Hutchinson said.

Another benefit to the radiation is that it gives food an extended shelf life, killing the bacteria that tend to spoil the lettuce. "Given the choice of eating irradiated lettuce or coming down with salmonella or E. coli and losing some kidney function, I'll take the irradiated lettuce," Hutchinson said. It is up to food processors to decide if they want to use radiation or not.

Source: katu.com

Publication date: 11/4/2008




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