Safer Greens

By Amy Paturel, "Safer Greens," March/April 2009

Understanding irradiation of spinach and iceberg lettuce.

But some researchers worry that irradiation offers consumers—and farmers—a false sense of security. “Irradiation is not a replacement for good agricultural practices,” cautions Catherine Donnelly, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and food science at the University of Vermont. Plus, dirty hands or contact with other foods in the kitchen, such as chicken, can easily contaminate leafy greens after irradiation. Irradiation also is an expensive process and not many consumers are demanding it.

Bottom Line: Irradiation makes spinach and iceberg lettuce safer. Irradiated foods are labeled “treated with radiation” or “treated by irradiation” and carry the international symbol for irradiation, which resembles a flower. But, due to cost and low demand, irradiated greens may not be available at many markets—at least for now.

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