The Irradiation Loophole

food safety.svgIs this the FDA’s idea of food safety? Action Alert!

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) became law in 2010. We, along with other consumer groups, were able to block some of the worst provisions of the proposed bill, but it was still flawed legislation as passed. The basic problem is that every time food safety problems emerge, the government gives a pass to the big industrial farms where the problems originate.

The FDA has just proposed two new rules as part of the act’s implementation. Not surprisingly they appear to have been heavily influenced by the same special interests responsible for many of the dangers to our foods: the chemical, radiology, and meat industries are exempted, all in the name of food safety.

The first of the rules concerns standards for raw agricultural commodities (RAC). The reasoning behind the exclusive focus on raw foods is that processed food is less likely to be contaminated. Never mind how unhealthy processed food is so long as the food is not contaminated.

The FDA’s big idea seems to be irradiation. Irradiated foods are exempted because FDA believes nuked, sterile food is safer. The agency is apparently not concerned with what happens to the food’s nutritional value or whether the irradiation itself is safe. How many food producers, hoping to avoid burdensome and expensive compliance requirements, will simply irradiate their fruits and vegetables? With such onerous rules combined with this big loophole, the FDA is actively encouraging irradiation.

There are many reasons irradiated food is bad for us. There are no federal standards for safe levels of radiation in sterilized food, and research indicates a wide range of problems in animals that eat irradiated food, including chromosomal abnormalities, a rare form of cancer, and even premature death. Irradiating food can kill bacteria from filthy CAFOs and processing plants, but it cannot address the other unhealthy conditions found there. Irradiation may also dramatically change flavor, odor, and texture of food, in addition to nutritional value.

But that really doesn’t matter, since the FDA no longer considers slaughtered meat to be a raw agricultural commodity. The meat industry is exempted from the new rules. So it actually doesn’t matter how unhealthy or disease-ridden CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) become.

The FDA conveniently decided not to worry about contamination from chemical hazards either, instead focusing exclusively on microbiological contamination. Since chemical contamination includes pesticides, cleaning compounds, etc., this is a big omission. The FDA reasons that its current regulatory framework to monitor these contaminants is sufficient, and says “illnesses attributable to chemical hazards are rare.”

Illnesses from pesticides, cleaning compounds, and other chemical contaminants are rare? Well, that’s the FDA’s worldview, because if they acknowledged the problem they might have to do something about it.

This exclusive focus on biological hazards (and the exclusion of standards for chemical and radiological hazards) is essentially a harmonization with an international standard called Codex. As we reported last month, Codex guidelines can and do have a major influence on US policy, and may have more influence in the future.

Fortunately, ANH-USA, working with a large coalition, was able to help win acceptance of the Tester amendment, ensuring protections in the law for smaller farms.

The second proposed FDA rule amends the agency’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) guidelines by creating hazards analysis requirements and risk-based protections with lots of detailed record keeping. If you are wondering what this means, you are in good company. Firms will presumably have to hire former FDA employees at high fees to figure out what the requirements really mean and to be sure they are satisfying the regulators. There is, of course, no guarantee that the FDA has the resources to review any of the mountain of new paperwork.

There is no question that the proposed rule gives the FDA more power. What the FDA currently calls “recommendations” for food production now become requirements.

Because of your efforts when the food safety legislation was being passed, the new rules do not apply to family farms with revenues under $500,000. That was a major improvement. It may also not apply to other small producers if they are below $250,000 in revenues or don’t exceed $500,000 in revenues and sell half their food to consumers or retailers. Is a firm that sells both retail and wholesale a retailer for purpose of this rule? If you are a small firm, you may have to hire a lawyer to figure that one out.

Action Alert! Contact FDA today and tell them their food safety approach is wrong. Nuking all our food is not the solution. It will just make things worse. Ask them to address the real dangers of our food system: CAFOs, unsafe industrial farming practices, reliance on genetically modified foods, and pesticide, herbicide, and antibiotic overuse.

Take Action!


  1. Been researching GMO’s. ONe study claimed that mutations created through radiation more hazardous than GMO gene splicing. Kind of off topic but related.

  2. When are you going to protect people instead of corporation farms and seed producers like Monsanto. You just take thier word for it and happily add to the poison they have been selling us that accompanies a huge rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes and food reactions. Anything to make the rich profit. I am slowly eliminating any processed food since you have become wholly owned by the corporate farms and consider so many citizens dismissable collateral damage. Shortening our lives and leading to huge medical bills to steal away any small inheritance we may pass to our children who are beginning to exhibit the same health problems at younger and younger ages. Heck from wht I understand children are entering puberty sooner and boys aren’t so fertile when they finally do. Is this an effort to reduce population? Because honestly I do not see you doing the job you were created for. It seems it is more important to serve the rich and the corporate farms and Monsanta and the chem companies.
    I have, since GMO corn is 90% of the market, developed a severe reaction to corn that includes bleeding gut, bleeding burning skin. It took a while to determine what was making me swell up and suffer skin itch so bad it felt like it was burning. I develop blood blister on my abdome and on my head that leaked blood continually. I worked as a medical lab tech and spent time in labs . More specifically I know what bloody stools look like. I know what a reaction looks like to skin. I have dealt with pathogens and viruses. I worked for a few years in the water & wastewater treatment labs as a chemist.
    What I see is an FDA that needs to start doing its job and quit trying to force people to have no choice but to buy poison That anecdotally they know is poison from thier own bodies response. I will not eat any of the filth you approve .. I will eat leaves and worms and bugs before I eat anything that causes me pain like applying talc thing it is talc because the label says talc only to find it melts my skin like butter … Then I look at the label and see corn starch. How about applying a lotion to ones back only to have it blister and seep for over a week after quickly washing it off after readin it has corn starch in it. How about eating 5 breaded shrimp in a restaurant only to find oneself developing a painful burning red blistering rash over torso…Yep corn starch. Corn oil, corn silk, corn cellulose, HFCS, corn meal, corn … Yet you tlet them put it on market with…

    1. I am so sorry to hear of your problems. This is extremely worrisome. If you have no where else to buy your food from. I hope the world is waking up.

    2. The corn products that you are referring to are GMO’s, Genetically Modified Organisms or Genetically
      Engineered plants, which include all soy products, canola oil, sugar beets, cotton seed oil,alfalfa, some squash and Hawaiian papaya, Look for Non GMO or No Soy on label. If you’re not buying cane sugar, you’re buying sugar made from GMO. My suggestion is, stop buying prepackaged foods.

  3. Are all organics automatically excluded from having to be irradiated?
    I often wonder about fruits and veggies that come in from Mexico – if they are organic, might they also still get irradiated crossing borders?

  4. the way you try to potect the public is mading us sicker and sicker. I t would be so wise to go to the source and really work with the huge industrial farmers to see that they have things in order. Clean, and with as little interfence as possible with the natural food. In your war against germs you forget that our beneficial bacteria digests out food and a sterile world is a dead world.

    1. Dear FDA. In your war against germs you totally forget that a sterile world is a dead world.

  5. Normally I feed my dogs natural, fresh, homecooked meals, plus “natural” or organic treats. Recently I bought some treats which said natural. After feeding my dog over a period of 2-3 weeks, I noticed blood in his stool, which had not existed before. To make a long story short, and after several visits to the vet, I stopped the “treats” because I noticed buried in the crease of the package the word “irradiation”. It was NOT at all obvious. After about 2 weeks the fecal bleeding stopped/disappeared. I allowed my dog a few more of the “treats” after that and the bleeding started up almost within days. I stopped the irradiated “treats” and the bleeding stopped. Coincidentally I happened to read some articles by which discussed the problem of irradiation and advised petowners to avoid irradiated foods for their pets. Comments from other pet owners indicated that they had encountered somewhat similar problems which I had had. I believe that it was not a mere coincidence that our various pets had health problems which linked in with their being fed irradiated products. If irradiated foods affect our pets this way, then what must irradiated foods be doing to us humans? The FDA seems to be acting in a cavalier manner towards people and their health, while not at all adopting the precautionary principle to safeguard that health. The FDA seems to have strayed from its original mandate as well. In any case, don’t feed irradiated products to your pets (or to yourselves).

    1. I, too, have had trouble finding rawhide dog treats that do NOT say: “treated by Irridation” – If I find those words (or that logo) on a packaage, I throw it back in the bin – I have to look long & hard to find treats with the “freshness pack” in them, to keep them fresh, rather than radiation, those that have a Use BY date printed.

  6. Yes the FDA, run by doctors, has an interesting approach to food safety. Poison it, refine it, genetically alter it, irradiate it till nothing living can tolerate it, and then it is safe from germs and viruses they think. Then give it to we lowly humans as food which leads to a slow form of whatever chronic diseases you are prone genetically get, good luck!
    Happy Healthy Trails
    Doc Blake

  7. The objections raised here are so valid. There are dangers in irradiation, CAFOs, unsafe industrial farming practices, acceptance of GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, and rampant antibiotic use. The FDA has been showing over the years how the organization is devoted to supporting big businesses, at the expense of the health of the public and the state of the planet, just like the big oil companies. We can’t trust the organizations that were supposedly set up to protect people. They have no moral ethics, just a rare concession in that direction to appear as though they were legitimate.

  8. There is no need to insult the integrity or the motives of the FDA or USDA regulators. While I also do disagree with some of their conclusions, the boards that advise them and the decision-making process is an open one. Everyone knows when the FDA attorneys or their political bosses override their scientific advisers as occurred with Plan B, the morning-after contraceptive.
    One would think that the claimed dangers would have been reported by experts on mutagenic potential such as Bruce Ames at UC Berkeley or Walter Willett Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and the chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health.
    The bottom line will always be how many people are being harmed by a potential threat. Those number in the thousands for biological contaminants. For radiological contaminants or for pesticide residues below existing regulatory limits the number is exactly zero.
    The FDA did not limit themselves to sources beholding to industry but did consult academics whom I respect as unbiased. Those sources do not give credence to the dangers claimed here. Please find one source who shares the broad respect of these two. who vouches for the claims made here and whose attribution can be verified. We can then determine whether the FDA gave th person’s position a fair hearing.

  9. The FDA is serving corporate interests, accepting flawed research (funded by the companies themselves), reviewed by persons with conflicts of interests. Serve the public & its safety ! Irradiated food is NOT healthy or natural, period.

  10. Why can’t we put a STOP to the FDA’s disregaurd to the nutritional value and hold them accountable. They are having their head turned by the industrial farmers and ignore the small farmer who is trying to do the right thing.
    The are suppose over see all foods, meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. But they they allow unsafe industrial farming practices, reliance on geneticall modified foods, and pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotic overuse.
    They can not allow God to grow our food with the humans doing the work.

  11. I tried about 10-12 times to send the above petition to Tom Coburn’s office (OK) which requires you to type in the special letter combinations. Each time I was told it was incorrect (which I’m sure it was not). I just thought you might want to know.
    It makes me feel that he does not want to receive any communications through this organization and from constituents who have perhaps a different viewpoint. Of course, I could be wrong about that.However, I used to live in NY and I signed and sent these petitions frequently with no problems at all.

    1. Bobbi, My action was sent to Dr. Tom Coburn, !st try. I send a lot of comments and petitions to Cole, Inholf, & Coburn. I am not sure if they make a difference or not , but I often recieve a written and/or E-mail reply.

  12. Sterilizing our food with radiation sterilizes the nutritional value. Lab animal tests show serious health problems in lab animals from eating irradiated food. Poisoning consumers to enhance the profits of Big Business is unacceptable.

  13. Thank you for the opportunity to directly contact the FDA about their idiot new rules. Where are the intelligent adults in this government agency?

    1. “Where are the intelligent adults in this government agency?”
      You misunderstand the problem. It’s not a question of intelligence; it’s a matter of corruption.
      The food and chemical corporations, with unlimited resources, bribe our two corporate-funded parties into passing laws that increase their profits, without regard to public safety. They also provide lucrative jobs to FDA officials after they leave the FDA, so FDA employees don’t want to anger them by protecting the public.

    2. “intelligent adults in this government agency”? Sort of an oxymoron, don’t you think? bureaucrats=regulators=government employees= taxation/legistlation w/o representation=overpaid, underqualified, entitled arrogant jerks who are exempt from the responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

  14. We are warned in scripture that in the last days those who regard themselves as wise will be as the foolish. This nation, one an affluent, powerful nation, is sliding into an abyss to obscurity because of corruption motivated by greed. It is what it is. We must put on the whole armour of God so that we might stand in that evil day.

  15. As crude and disgusting as it may be to say it, Americans would be much safer to irradiate the top 1% of FDA Officials, instead of any of our foods. Then, if any of that top 1% desired an exemption from irradiation, we would require a minimum 2,700 page ‘study’, to assess if it would be in the Public Interest to allow them to miss one of their “treatments”. Following that, perhaps we could fast-track increased regulatory scope, to include the top 1% of USDA officials; the program could be rapidly expanded to include Congressmen and Senators who formerly voted to allow the FDA to irradiate our foods. I’m thinking that our foods would quickly become more nutritions, and the side benefit would be that our government agencies and representatives would magically start to serve living, breathing American men and women, as opposed to serving multinational corporate interests.

  16. FDA or Federal DISEASE Administration very obviously does not work for the greater good of we the people or common man nor does it work at the behest of ours or planets health and well being.
    The FDA is a disease that needs major reforms, but how when the fox is watching the hen house.

  17. Nuking our food is one more of the FDA’s stupid ruling and is simply more mendacious food safety propaganda. Not only does it lead to irresponsible food production practices but it kills all the beneficial bacteria that our body needs to survive. Why not look at limiting the size of producers and
    and stringently enforce truly safe and natural food production. I for one am sick and tired of this agency, it’s feeble mindedness and cronyism. Let get some true foodies into this arm of our government. Obviously, it is a failed attempt to serve the good of the consumer.

  18. Doesn’t anybody in the FDA have any common sense at all? Naturally grown foods and animals are healthy naturally. It is only the intense farming, pesticides and unnatural processes that are harmful.
    Farming has a 10,000 year history without all the modern destructive techniques. The rate we are going we will kill ourselves off in the next ten years!

  19. FDA regulations allow us to purchase packaged foods or drugs without questioning that these products are free of contaminants. We also don’t question that labels accurately display what is in the product and in what concentrations. Because of FDA regulations I don’t think any of us worry when we buy a bottle of aspirin that it is safe for us to take or a bottle of milk that it is safe to drink. There is much that is good about the FDA but like any human organization there are also many failings. I also disagree with irradiation of food but we have remember that as the population of our country has grown, the task of feeding so many people economically (and safely) becomes more and more challenging. There will always be corruption as long as humans are around. Thanks to watch dog organizations like Alliance for Natural Health we are kept informed and allowed a voice. Thanks ANH!

    1. There are an awful lot “mays, indicates” etc. in the attack on irradiation, then the conclusion of being bad is deemed a certainty. There is an implication that irradiation causes food to be somewhat radioactive when the author must know that irradiation leaves NO radioactivity in food. Where is the evidence? The implication is that the FDA has not thoroughly tested the effects, safety, nutrionally, taste, etc. of irradiated food, but that the FDA has given a pass with no thorough testing. That is not true, and I believe the author knows it. Evidently we deserve only bias and distortions, since the author believes we are predisposed to suspect the FDA and the scientific community, and predisposed to believe opponents. The author would rather we eat food that sickens and kills from bacteria than eat irradiated food, so the author falsely manipulates our fear and concern about radioactivity. And few are going to study this matter on their own to determine the truth. Food that IS contaminated by radiation is contaminated by microscopic radioactive particles being ingested. Not from radiation. When you are Xrayed, you do not become radioactive at all. So why does the author claim you do?
      If a person gets thousands of Xrays, their chances of getting cancer are worse. Food gets one instanteous dose of gamma rays, and is NOT made radioactive at all. Such distortions calculated to instill fear are harmful not only to credibility, but to our society, too many of whom really do die from bacterial contamination.

    2. Tina Hahn, in response to your comments that the FDA actually does keep our medicine and food safe…… you have more reading to do. In fact, the FDA, USDA, and any other government entity is not here for our health. They will only make sure it doesn’t kill you today. They do however approve SLOW poison on a regular basis! Read or watch the book/DVD “Food INC” or “Forks Over Knives” or “The World According to Mosanto” or “Seeds of Deception”. All very scary stuff! Just thought you might like to know!

  20. There are alternatives that will work as well. At home I use Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide mixed with 50% distilled water. It kills germs and rinses off easily.

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