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Irradiated Ground Beef

Irradiated Ground Beef

Time for a Comeback?

When the government approved the irradiation of raw beef in the year 2000 to kill E. coli and other dangerous bacteria that might be lurking, a few stores tried selling it -- then pulled back.

People still perceived irradiated foods as radioactive and therefore unsafe. However, spices in the US have been irradiated for decades, as have milk cartons, teething rings and contact lenses. So there might be something to this - but do we know all we need to know yet?

Today, supermarkets feel the timing might be better for irradiated beef, particularly ground beef, now that more and more ground meat is being found contaminated with harmful microorganisms that can kill people if not cooked to a high enough temperature. Stores across the nation are now stocking it.

Is it safe? Many believe it is. The Centers for Disease Control are pushing for more irradiation, in fact. The claim is that irradiated foods are no more radioactive than your luggage after it is scanned at the airport. What concerns many of us, is that the food is exposed to low doses of radiation to keep harmful bacteria from multiplying. However, proponents of irradiation claim that those rays pass through the food; they do not hang around.

The problem we have with this is that any time a food is tampered with, it is altered from its natural state. As such, it simply cannot remain as healthful. Need we say more?

In regard to fears that an irradiation plant can cause a nuclear explosion, proponents also say they are unfounded. The claims are that food irradiation plants use much lower levels of energy and generate far less heat than a nuclear power plant and therefore they simply cannot cause an atom to fissure and create a nuclear disaster.

And here's the BUT:  Granted, there is always the remote chance of an accident in transporting radioactive materials to or from a radiation facility.

How Irradiation Works
Technology now allows irradiation to occur in food as a result of bombardment with electricity rather than via exposure to radioactive compounds, such as cobalt 60 or cesium 137. Some facilities are already using electricity.

Should you choose irradiated ground beef?

Proponents say "YES!" They claim:

  • Irradiated ground beef costs up to 20 cents a pound more than non-irradiated. But if you love your burgers rare or you do not use a meat thermometer to make sure your ground beef is cooked to an internal temperature of 160-degrees, at which point the offensive bacteria are killed, it's worth the price.
  • Even more so worthy of the price if there are elderly people in your home, young children, or middle-aged adults who are ill and therefore have compromised immune systems. Far better to spend that extra 20-cents a pound, than risk infecting people with microorganisms that could make them severely ill -- or worse.
  • Until such a time as meat packing plants become more hygienic, it is better to make sure your beef comes to you "zapped" (one could also call it "nuked").
  • Ground beef, in particular, has the potential to cause harm because during the grinding process, bacteria from the surface of the meat can make their way deep into the middle, where they are less likely to be exposed to temperatures high enough to kill them.

What troubles nutritionists about irradiation (like yours truly), is that the government sources are not telling you that irradiation destroys essential vitamins, including vitamin A, thiamin, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, C, E, and K; amino acid and essential polyunsaturated fatty acid content may also be affected. A 20 to 80 percent loss of any of these is not uncommon.

Another troubling fact: The FDA reviewed 441 toxicity studies to determine the safety of irradiated foods. Dr. Marcia van Gemert, the team leader in charge of new food additives at the FDA and the chairperson of the committee in charge of investigating the studies, testified that all 441 studies were flawed.

From Mercola.com: Nuclear Lunch: The Dangers and Unknowns of Food Irradiation (highy recommended read):

And from the hazards inherent in the technology to the FDA's own admission that the safety studies are flawed, the risks involved with food irradiation far outweigh the presumed "benefits."

What to do? Well, that has to be up to you. "Go with your gut" (as in instincts; they're usually spot-on).

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