Monday, September 8, 2008

Cold pasteurized = Irradiation

There's something to be said about euphemisms. . . They're part of our culture. They're polite ways of expressing often difficult subjects. Oh, and also, sometimes they're blatantly deceptive.

Take for example this new label created by the FDA: cold pasteurized. Sounds pretty innocuous, doesn't it? I think that's the point. Normally, when we think of pasteurization, we think "milk" and "Louis Pasteur" and that process he invented to kill bacteria and make drinking milk "safe." (all of which I think is mass propaganda masquerading as food safety anyway, but that's beside the point) While I choose not to drink milk for other reasons, those who do consume it are lead to believe that this process makes it safe to drink.

Now, what would you think if you were told your milk was irradiated? Quite different, huh. That word conjures up all sorts of negative connotations, like x-rays and mutation and cancer. And rightly so. Even the federal government doesn't know quite what irradiation does to food, and yet the FDA has approved its use on dried herbs, spice mixes and processed foods.

According to the World Health Organization (1991), "the genuine effect of processing food by ionizing radiation relates to damages to the DNA, the basic genetic information for life. . . Spoilage-causing micro-organisms cannot continue their activities. . . Plants cannot continue the natural ripening or aging process."

Sounds to me like an attempt to control the Laws of Nature.

Now I suppose you could just avoid all products labeled cold pasteurized, right? Well, that's easier said than done. You see, the government does not require companies to label their products as such. And, even when companies do so voluntarily, they use this pretty little leafy icon:

If I saw that, it would make me want to buy a jar of 10-month old dried basil that had been zapped by ionizing radiation, not avoid it. The problem gets messier. How do you label spinach? You see, the FDA has recently approved the use of cold pasteurization (irradiation, remember) on fresh spinach and lettuce. Even if it's organic. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Now how would you label a leafy green?!! You can't. And there's no way of knowing whether or not your produce has been effected by this new policy.

If you're like me, you'll avoid all those 99 cent bottled herbs at CVS, as well as anything frozen, packaged or canned, and start growing your own greens. Oh, and also, write to your congressperson to let them know, too.

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