Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

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New Twist On Green Eggs and Ham

  • Rather than address rising bacterial contaminations due to filthy conditions in today's agribusiness, the FDA is pushing a high-tech fix. But could the fix be as bad as the problem?

Late last year the FDA approved the irradiation of eggs as a method of reducing levels of Salmonella. Despite protests from opponents of irradiation of foods, the FDA concluded it would be a safe process. It has already approved irradiation of raw meat and meat products, poultry, fruits, vegetables, flour and spices.

The institutional assumption is that irradiation can kill disease-causing germs by zapping them with ionizing radiation from gamma rays or X-rays without doing damage to the food.

Groups opposing irradiation of foods argued to delay the FDA's decision so public hearings could be held.

The idea of hearings is not looked upon with favor by the agency. For example, when hearings were held on the matter of the government's arbitrary changes in the definition of "organic," public outrage totally swept several arbitrary bureaucratic changes aside.

One of the changes in the definition of "organic" to be washed away by the angry tide of public opinion was that "irradiated foods" could still claim the label "organic."

The objection to irradiation is that the process reduces vitamin A levels, creates high levels of free radicals that weaken cell membranes and can disrupt the interaction between enzymes and proteins that are essential to digestion and proper metabolism. Additionally, irradiation never kills all the dangerous microbes. It does eliminate most of the beneficial ones, and it increases the chances for genetic mutations that could create more "super-germs." Furthermore, irradiation merely masks filthy conditions caused by the factory farming methods.

The FDA argued that by using"only 3 kilorays of ionizing radiation" the level of nutritional damage to vitamins, including vitamin A, protein, lipid and carbohydrate levels and quality would be "minimal."

The FDA scientists determined that changes in egg due to irradiation would be "insignificant." Then the agency noted that "irradiation can cause color loss in egg yolk and a change in egg's viscosity as the intensity of the kilorays increases.