As I understand it, irradiation sterilizes food by breaking the DNA of the microorganisms infecting it. In the same way that radiation causes cancer in us by damaging our DNA and introducing mutations, introducing multiple breaks in the bacteria's DNA kills them when they receive so many breaks it is beyond their ability to heal. This lethal dose of radiation is way below the amount to cook the food (break up and denature the majority of the proteins). I think it might only take several breaks in the entire chromosome to kill a bacteria (E. coli has a over 4 million nucleotides in its chromosome).
I wouldn't compare irradiating food to a dental x-ray, so much as receiving radiation treatment for breast cancer. Yes, getting in between the radiation emitting device and the food would be bad, but the radiation is long gone from the food before we see it.
Could the irradiated food be less nutritious? I think that that would only be a problem if the food is irradiated to the point of being cooked, which is way above the dose needed to sterilize the food.
Originally Posted by zenor77
Personally I think we should go back to small scale local food production as much as possible and I think it's more possible then people realize. This would eliminate the need for things like irradiated food.
Why would that be safer? I have never been poisoned by eating at a big chain restaurant, but have had several bouts from small "Mom and Pop" places.
There is no advantage to Organic or natural sourcing when it comes to food safety, which is really about bacterial contamination. Irradiating food would solve this problem and save us from the estimated 20-80 million cases of food poisoning each year in the US.
Many foods are already being irradiated. Anything labeled cold pasteurized is irradiated and I believe (at this point anyway) that foods do not need to be labeled as such if they have been irradiated.
I think that irradiation and other "band-aid" methods should be avoided even if they are proven safe. Why not just fix the problem at it's root instead of just trying to repair one symptom of a problem? That said, I haven't seen enough research to believe that irradiation is safe.
Is irradiation less safe than cooking food? And, even if it is, do you want to cook all your fruits and vegetables?
How do we fix the "root problem"? Make all infectious bacteria extinct?
Even with really good hygiene and food handling practices, some people are going to get sick unless you somehow sterilize the food.
BTW, does anyone know if flour is irradiated? When I was growing up in the late '60's-early '70's, if you left a bag of flour on the shelf long enough it produced worms and beetles as the contaminating insect eggs hatched and the larva matured. I haven't seen this happen in many years, although it could just be that they are freer with the pesticides these days.