E. Coli: FDA Will Allow Spinach, Lettuce To Be Irradiated

For the first time ever, the FDA is going to allow manufacturers to irradiate produce at levels that can kill bacteria that causes food-borne illness, says the New York Times. The produce in question, spinach and iceberg lettuce, have, in recent years, been linked to widespread outbreaks of serious illnesses.

From the New York Times:

Advocates for food safety condemned the agency’s decision and asserted that irradiation could lower nutritional value, create unsafe chemicals and ruin taste.

“It’s a total cop-out,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch. “They don’t have the resources, the authority or the political will to really protect consumers from unsafe food.”

Dr. Laura Tarantino, director of the Office of Food Additive Safety at the F.D.A., said the agency had found no serious nutritional or safety changes associated with irradiation of spinach or lettuce.

“These irradiated foods are not less safe than others,” Dr. Tarantino said, “and the doses are effective in reducing the level of disease-causing micro-organisms.”

The government has long allowed food processors to irradiate beef, eggs, poultry, oysters and spices, but the market for irradiated foods is tiny because the government also requires that these foods be labeled as irradiated, labels that scare away most consumers.

“People think the product is radioactive,” said Harlan Clemmons, president of Sadex, a food irradiation company based in Sioux City, Iowa.

What do you think? Will you happily eat irradiated spinach?

F.D.A. Allows Irradiation of Some Produce [NYT]
(Photo: smcgee )