Let consumers decide about food irradiation

A friend sent me this mock-up of what the organic types may do in response to the approval of irradiation for spinach and lettuce.

Maybe, and the InterWebs are already soaked with screeds about the dangers of the man, and irradiation, but maybe consumers are a little beyond that. So I put out this:

Food irradiation of fresh produce is an additional tool that can help reduce the threat of foodborne illness — but it is not a magic bullet, according to Doug Powell, an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has published a final rule allowing the irradiation of fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach, available at: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cfsup185.html

Farmers still need to practice good agricultural practices, and the possibility of post-processing contamination still exists, Powell said, but added that irradiation is safe and should be made available at the retail level.

"There’s a lot of people already speaking on behalf of consumers and what they may or may not do," Powell said. "When it comes to food, consumers vote with their wallets at checkout, not on public opinion surveys. I’d really like to see someone step up and offer consumers the choice. There have been enough serious outbreaks of foodborne illness in fresh produce that the interest in irradiated spinach and lettuce should be strong."

Powell can be reached at 785-317-0560 or dpowell@k-state.edu