The Official Journal of the European Union has recently published the updated list of facilities authorized for the treatment of foods and their ingredients with ionizing radiation.
But, what's it about?
Irradiation is a physical treatment of food carried out with high-energy ionizing radiation, capable of inactivating the degradative enzymes present in the food, delaying its deterioration and inhibiting the multiplication of microorganisms.
WHY IS FOOD SUBJECTED TO IRRADIATION?
- to reduce the microbial load in the food product and therefore reduce the health risks associated with certain products linked to the presence of pathogenic microorganisms
- to extend the shelf life of products
- to prevent sprouting of potatoes, garlic and onions.
It should be noted that the treatment should not be used to replace preventive hygiene measures, but rather in some cases as a decontamination measure, implemented with precise conditions of use. Its technological necessity must therefore be justified (for example by limitations inherent in the production process) and must not present risks to the health of the consumer.
The products currently admitted for treatment in the EU are the category "dried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetable condiments".
On a transitional basis, each Member State may maintain the treatments previously authorized for certain matrices:
in Italy it is used as an anti-sprout for potatoes, garlic and onion.
(Source: Ministry of Health )
DOES IRRADIATION HURT?
The ionizing radiations are a small part of the broad spectrum of radiation: are those a more energy . Precisely because of this characteristic they are able to interact with the atomic structure of matter by removing electrons that orbit around the nucleus and giving the atom an electric charge (ionizing them). They are part of ionizing radiation i X-rays , gamma rays, alpha particles and beta particles . Also a portion of ultraviolet rays (those closest in wavelength to X-rays) has ionizing properties. Only ionizing radiation and ultraviolet rays are carcinogenic to humans , both from the Sun and from other sources.
Ionizing radiations act through the energy deposited in the tissues : therefore their biological effects are greater as the dose to which one is exposed increases. The dose absorbed by the tissues is measured in Grays (Gy), while the unit of measurement used to measure the biological effect of radiation is the Sieverts (Sv).
The issue is delicate because ionizing radiations are per se harmful to humans as they can damage the DNA of cells and alter the environment that surrounds them. From these transformations the process that leads to the development of the tumor can start. Your risk of cancer increases as the dose you are exposed to increases . However, even low doses can lead to an increase in risk and it is not possible to determine a dose below which the risk of developing a tumor disappears; however, it must be kept in mind that their use also exists in the medical and diagnostic fields (diagnostic radiology, radiotherapy and nuclear medicine) and that the risk deriving from these procedures must always be compared with the expected benefits.
(Source: AIRC )
Other sources state that nuclear irradiation causes the inevitable nutritional deterioration of foods for at least two reasons: vitamins A, those of group B, C, E, K are significantly damaged: Fruit, vegetables, milk and fish lose their vitamins. In milk, vitamin C drops by 70%, while in carrots and potatoes the loss is 50%. The B12 in meat and milk is reduced by half. Many essential amino acids, such as methionine, cysteine and phenylalanine are seriously damaged causing them to lose all nutritional properties. The flavour, color and genuine smell of food is altered. This aspect requires a corrective maneuver that requires a massive addition of additives.
The discussion in this regard is still open and we will have to wait for a definitive answer to our question. In the meantime, we at Bios&Derma intend to make our contribution to protecting health and the environment by choosing to avoid the use of ionizing radiation for our products. We believe it is the demand from the grassroots that drives the interests of the large distributors and we try to do our part.