13 August 1988 Policy Statement
Re: Food Irradiation
Dear Concerned Customer of Eden Foods,
Please let this letter serve as our affidavit and your assurance that no Eden brand product has been, is being, or will ever be subjected to the new food processing technique even closely resembling irradiation. No Eden brand product has any ingredient in it that has ever been subjected to irradiation.
After more than 19 years in this natural foods industry, I am not aware of another food manufacturer that spends as much effort, in both time and money, to be certain of the ingredients and processing techniques used in or on the food products that they purchase as does Eden Foods.
Thank you for your interest and concern. Please do your utmost to encourage the understanding of the food irradiation process and more importantly; please do your best to make sure that food products that are irradiated are required to carry labeling that makes this fact known to the consumer.
Be a vocal consumer and demand proper notification whenever this new method of food preservation is used.
Eden Foods, Inc. supports any legislative action that would ban food irradiation or require clear consumer labeling of any food that is irradiated.
Michael Potter, Chairman
Eden wrote the letter above in 1988, and our position towards food irradiation remains Zero Tolerance. While most of our ingredients are certified organic and irradiation is prohibited in organic food production, Eden in no way relies on this alone to ensure that none of our ingredients ever has, is, or will be subject to irradiation.
Rather, our 100 percent Irradiation Free assurance is based on knowing exactly where all of our ingredients come from, where they are grown and processed, and exactly how and where they are handled. This includes herbs, spices, and seasonings.
Though food irradiation is in many ways more of a threat to human rights and health today as ever, Eden also remains as vigilant as ever in not only protecting the foods that we make, but in speaking out against food irradiation and encouraging activism against it.
Brief History of a Terrible Idea
Just over two months before Eden penned the above letter, a serious accident occurred at Radiation Sterilizers in Decatur, Georgia. On June 6, 1988, plant sensors detected a leak in a pool of water holding radioactive cesium-137 capsules. At least three employees were exposed to radioactivity, carrying it into their cars and homes. 25,000 gallons of water in the source pool were contaminated. According to food safety activist Paul Fehribach, "It is unclear whether regulators were unable to recall all of the medical supplies, consumer products, and food products that had been shipped from the facility and were believed to have been contaminated in the incident."
Why has the U.S. government continued over 50 years to promote such a horrible practice, despite several accidents in addition to the one at Decatur, and study after study indicating serious threats to human health and safety from eating irradiated food?
The idea to use nuclear materials for Food irradiation originated with President Dwight Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace Program, unveiled in 1953. According to the group Public Citizen, "While most of the schemes spawned by the Atoms for Peace program are long forgotten, including atomic planes, nuclear heart pacemakers and nuclear-powered coffee pots, food irradiation has persisted."
In essence, certain government and industry factions have historically coveted food irradiation as a convenient and profitable way to dispose of nuclear waste. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing in 1983 the Department of Energy declared, "The utilization of these radioactive materials simply reduces our waste handling problem."
A second, more recent impetus for government and agribusiness to support food irradiation is as a cheap fix to kill e-coli and other bacteria in food. Instead of having factory farms clean up the filthy conditions that cause these bacterial contaminations to begin with, irradiation is seen as an easier solution.
In fact, irradiation is now being promoted by several government agencies as a food safety technique. The FDA has taken recent action to allow companies to label irradiated food as "cold pasteurized" and ultimately to eliminate the already weak labeling standards for irradiation that currently exist, such as the "Radura" symbol. The USDA in 2003 actually approved the wholesale use of irradiated meat for the national school lunch program. Due to public outcry Congress put the brakes on the practice before it could commence in a widespread fashion, but the threat to our children's lunch trays still looms.
The following information on food irradiation is courtesy of the Washington, D.C. based Center for Food Safety.
What is Food Irradiation?
Food irradiation uses high-energy Gamma rays, electron beams, or X-rays (all of which are millions of times more powerful than standard medical X-rays) to break apart the bacteria and insects that can hide in meat, grains, and other foods. Radiation can do strange things to food, by creating substances called "unique radiolytic products." These irradiation byproducts include a variety of mutagens - substances that can cause gene mutations, polyploidy (an abnormal condition in which cells contain more than two sets of chromosomes), chromosome aberrations (often associated with cancerous cells), and dominant lethal mutations (a change in a cell that prevents it from reproducing) in human cells. Making matters worse, many mutagens are also carcinogens.
Research also shows that irradiation forms volatile toxic chemicals such as benzene and toluene, chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer and birth defects. Irradiation also causes stunted growth in lab animals fed irradiated foods. An important 2001 study linked colon tumor promotion in lab rats to 2-alkylcyclobutanones (2-ACB's), a new chemical compound found only in irradiated foods. The FDA has never tested the safety of these byproducts. Irradiation has also been shown to cause the low-level production of furans (similar to cancer-causing dioxins) in fruit juice.
Food Safety Concerns
In addition to the proposed weakening of the labeling requirements for irradiated food, FDA's rule would also severely limit them by requiring companies to label irradiated food only when the radiation treatment causes a 'material change' to the product. Examples include changes to the taste, texture, smell or shelf life of a food. Published research on irradiated foods reveals that irradiation does change, and can actually ruin, the flavor, odor, appearance, and texture of food. Such research repeatedly finds that irradiated foods smell rotten, metallic, bloody, burnt, grassy, and generally off. The taste has been described as like sulfur, singed hair, burnt feathers, burnt oil, and rancid fat. Beyond the obvious yuck factor, serious questions remain as to whether irradiated foods are safe to eat.
Irradiation Destroys the Vitamin Content of Foods
Irradiated foods can lose from 2-95% of their vitamins. For example, irradiation can destroy up to 80% of the vitamin A in eggs, up to 95% of the vitamin A and lutein in green beans, up to 50% of the vitamin A and lutein in broccoli, and 40% of the beta-carotene in orange juice. Irradiation also doubles the amount of trans fats in beef.
Despite 50 years of research, food scientists still do not fully understand how these changes take place. Much of the ongoing research, in fact, is focused on devising new ways to hide these changes, rather than addressing the cause of the changes themselves.
Irradiation is Not the Solution to Food-Borne Illness
Using recent food contamination scandals as a springboard, irradiation has been touted as the solution to food-borne illness in everything from spinach to deli meats. But a good, hard look at the systemic food and agricultural problems that cause these tragic outbreaks in the first place has yet to be undertaken by government agencies.
Irradiation Masks the Unsanitary Condition of Factory Farms
Irradiation is an after the fact "solution" that does nothing to address the unsanitary conditions of factory farms, and actually creates a disincentive for producers and handlers to take preventative steps in production in handling. The longer shelf life created by irradiation (affording longer shipping distances) also provides greater opportunity for post-treatment contamination via shipping, handling, etc. Additionally, irradiation does not work to stop toxins produced by some bacteria (like botulism); viruses, like foot and mouth disease or hepatitis, are resistant to the irradiation doses used in food; and prions (thought to be the cause of BSE, or Mad Cow disease) are resistant as well.
Your Right to Know: FDA, Consumers, and the Labeling Lie
Labeling irradiated foods as "pasteurized" is simply untruthful and misleading. Pasteurization involves heating liquids for the purpose of destroying harmful bacteria and other pathogens, and has been used safely for decades. Using high-energy gamma rays, electron beams, or X-rays on foods - is a completely different process than pasteurization.
In fact, FDA's own research found that the proposed change would confuse consumers, stating "Research indicates that many consumers regard substitute terms for irradiation to be misleading." Consumer data has repeatedly shown that consumers recognize and prefer the current labeling requirements of irradiated food. In 2001, FDA conducted focus groups of consumers on this issue. Consumers participating unanimously rejected replacing the term irradiation with pasteurization and reacted with phrases such as, "sneaky," "deceptive," "misleading," and "trying to fool us." Allowing the marketing of irradiated food without any labeling is equally misleading.