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
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.