Jul 17, 2013

Food that is totally Rad!

The symbol you see here may look like a flower, but it's actually the symbol for food irradiation. Grocery shoppers in the United States got their first look at the symbol on January 24, 1992 when irradiated strawberries went on sale at a supermarket in North Miami Beach, Florida.

Irradiation is a process in which food is bombarded with low-level radiation in the form of gamma rays. The radiation doesn't make the food radioactive. Rather, it kills harmful bacteria, molds, and insects that cause spoilage and disease. Thus, supporters of the process say, irradiated foods can be shipped greater distances, can stay on supermarket shelves longer, and can protect people from getting food poisoning and other illnesses.

Opponents of food irradiation point out that gamma rays change the chemical structure of foods. This causes food to lose some of its nutritional value. Also , the radiation may create new compounds that are found only in irradiated foods and that haven't yet been identified or tested by scientist.

Irradiation of food was approved by the World Health Organization in 1981, and the process has been used in many countries. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved irradiation of fruits, vegetables, pork , grains, and spices in the 1980's. But consumer concerns over the safety of the process kept irradiated foods out of American supermarkets for several years.

The flowerlike irradiation symbol, known as the "radura," is used internationally. In the United States, it must be on all packages of fresh irradiated fruits, vegetables, and meats. However, it doesn't have to be used on packaged foods that contain irradiated ingredients. Nor do restaurants or school cafeterias have to indicate whether the food they serve was irradiated. (Grolier New Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia)