Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What the heck is a "Radura" and why should I care?

- I wrote this entry back in November of 2008 and posted it on another blog. In light of the Japanese nuclear crisis and our heightened awareness of radiation, I felt it was a worthy topic to recycle. -   

Parents of special needs children are already very aware of what they are feeding their children, especially when there is concern about toxic load and the effects the food may have on your child. As the mother of two boys with multiple food allergies/sensitivities, autism, and sensory processing disorder, I monitor every ingredient on every label of everything I buy. For our family, diet was the key to the most significant progress, particularly when my youngest began talking two weeks after we went off of all of the allergenic foods. As a result, I am very conscious of what things come into our home and whether or not each item will help or hinder my children’s progress. Now there’s something else to watch out for. The article, “Beware the Radura: Bombarding food with radiation results in preservation at a price” by Eric Schneider in the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of Energy Times, had me sit up and take notice.

“Radura,” a fairly innocuous term, is the name of a new logo to be on the look out for at a store near you. The logo itself is described as a “minimalist…two-leaved plant enclosed by a circle, with breaks in the top half that allude to ionizing rays.” This flower-like logo, which seems to imply something healthy and natural, is a sign that the food you are about to purchase has been treated with radiation. Irradiation has been slowly gaining momentum since the FDA approved it in 1963, and over the years irradiated foods include meat, vegetables and spices. Since the 2006 E. coli outbreak that affected the spinach industry and the salmonella outbreak this past May that affected tomatoes and peppers, the FDA has pushed forward the usage of irradiation to now include lettuce and spinach.

The thing that really caught my attention was that spices are treated with the equivalent of one billion chest x-rays and a hamburger is treated with the equivalent of 15 million chest x-rays. Seriously? When we get an x-ray, we have to wear a protective lead shield. Are we supposed to really believe that eating food exposed to ONE BILLION the times of radiation as when we are wearing our cute lead smock is actually SAFE? Do I have the word stupid tattooed to my forehead? You have got to be kidding me! As if the actual logic wasn’t enough to convince me that irradiation is a bad idea, there is actual data proving that it is harmful.

Wenonah Hauter, author of Zapped! Irradiation and the Death of Food points to the fact that the use of irradiation was approved due to studies that were labeled “deficient” by their own people at the FDA. They did this 79 times – approved the use of a potentially harmful process with deficient science. Does this sound familiar? Seems to me that this is the same mentality that got us into a pickle with the use of mercury in vaccines. That’s a whole other story in itself, but not for this particular blog.

Diane Hatz from Sustainable Table believes that the long-term effects of consuming goods that have been irradiated is unknown. “Irradiation changes the molecular structure of food, and creates carcinogens such as benzene and toxic chemicals like toluene. Animals fed irradiated food have encountered health problems such as premature death, mutations, stillbirths and organ damage.” If the animals who are eating irradiated food are experiencing such widespread effects, why would we even consider this is a good idea to introduce into our own homes and experiment on its safety in our children? Irradiation affects the flavor, odor and nutritional quality of food, destroying vitamins and creating byproducts which don’t actually occur in the food itself. Those particular byproducts have been linked to “cancer development in rats and genetic damage in human cells.”

The premise for irradiation is to kill harmful bacteria, help control pests and create a longer shelf life – all very worthy reasons for the greater good. However, when a food is irradiated, what happens to it when it is shipped, sold or prepared? It certainly has plenty of opportunity to become contaminated prior to arriving as dinner on your table. Will it protect against mad-cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease or hepatitis? The answer is no to all. It is not a guarantee of safety and may actually encourage poor sanitation and unsafe practices. It will not help us with imported food produced in substandard conditions, nor will it help clean up problems at industrial farms. The author cites an example of when imported shrimp grown in filthy conditions were irradiated to aid in masking the true nature of the food. It appeared okay because it lasted longer, but if you knew the origin of the food would you as a consumer knowingly eat old, dirty food, even if the bacteria on it are dead?

My personal opinion on the radura logo and the usage of irradiation is buyer beware. From my experience, our special needs children seem to be more sensitive to toxic load and may also have genetic vulnerabilities that can negatively contribute. Do we as parents want to knowingly make their situation more complicated and possibly cause them additional harm? Familiarize yourself with the radura logo so you can be on the lookout for it. I for one will do my best to make sure that none of this food enters my home. After all of our amazing progress, I’m not willing to take the risk of buying irradiated foods for my family.

- Update as of March 2011 -
Since I wrote this, I have removed all "regular" spices from my home and buy only organic ones or ones that say clearly state on the label that they are "non-irradiated." I have been on the lookout for the radura logo but thankfully have yet to see it in the store. However, I also know that our government is famous for not always disclosing safety issues related to our food, like when carbon monoxide is used to extend the visual appeal of old meat, or when ingredients are genetically-modified rendering them technically into a pesticide (as with most "regular" corn, soy, and canola products), or when food contains residual amounts of mercury from processing with the neurotoxic heavy metal (as in the case of high fructose corn syrup), etc. There are lots of things that are irradiated and there is really no way for any of us to be 100% sure what is safe. This is why we have committed our household to being as organic and toxin-free as possible. It my only safeguard against lax regulations. Our kids are so sensitive to toxins and chemicals, it's the least I can do to support their healing. I hope you find the inspiration to make some positive changes with your buying habits as well.  
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