FDA Allows Producers to Irradiate Spinach and Lettuce to Kill Germs

Radiation SymbolIrradiated spinach and lettuce are coming soon to a store near you!

In the name of food safety, the Food and Drug Administration will now allow producers of fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce to irradiate their products to kill germs.

Following in the wake of the recent E. coli and salmonella outbreaks from fresh produce, the FDA is announcing a new regulation that permits producers to use radiation to reduce bacteria content in spinach and lettuce.

Meat that has been irradiated (sometimes called cold-pasteurized) has been sold for years, and spices and other food treated this way is on the shelves of your local store right now. Leafy greens and other highly perishable produce have not been approved for irradiation until this regulation. The same washing and sanitizing will be still required.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is the world’s largest trade association for manufacturers of food and beverages, will be petitioning the FDA to start including other foods, like romaine lettuce and salad-bar items, in the list of products that are acceptable to irradiate.

The FDA has found that irradiating food is effective in killing E. coli, salmonella, and listeria, but it does not kill viruses or sterilize it completely. This may mean a false sense of security for food producers and consumers alike.

Radura Symbol for Irradiated Foods

The Organic Consumer’s Organization has a resource page on what’s wrong with food irradiation, and a page with the background and list of foods which can be irradiated.

Irradiation is not allowed for certified organic foods, which is another reason to buy organic.

Food that is irradiated is required to be labeled with a Radura symbol, as seen here, but who knows what that little green flower means? Or where to look for it? Doesn’t it look so nice and green and happy?

My concern is not so much the irradiation or the health issue or nutrition content, but the fact that because our food system is so out of control, we now need to treat every piece of food as a potential hazard!

Related posts about food safety:

Images: Public Domain

3 Comments

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  1. Thanks for the heads up on the symbol! The coverage I read earlier in the news media /did not/ include that symbol.

    I also completely agree with you about the problem not being irradiation per se, but that the industrial food chain produces food that /needs/ to be irradiated to be safe. I’ll stick with a local CSA, thanks anyway FDA.

  2. Thanks for this post! My friend and I were just trying to figure out how to tell which foods are irradiated; I am SO glad you showed the symbol.

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