Diet Diva
Diet Diva

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Is Radiation in Our Food?

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The radura symbol
The radioactive activity in Japan has left a lot of American scratching their heads wondering what the impact is for us. Milk in California and Washington State has tested positive for radiation, and the source of the contamination is confirmed to be Japan. Right now, the U.S. is not accepting milk or produce from that region and any other food is tested for radiation levels to ensure they are safe.

The truth is that we are exposed to radiation every day. Sunlight, microwaves, computers, cell phones—they all put out a certain amount of radiation. Our food contains radiation from three main sources.

1. Radioactive Contamination in Our Air, Soil, and Water

The produce and animal feed that is grown in our soil, the water that animals drink, and the air they breathe can lead to radiation in their meat and milk. It can also mean carrots, bananas, potatoes, and countless other foods may contain detectible radiation.

The question is whether this is dangerous or not. The milk that was recently in question had 5,000 times less radiation than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers unsafe.

The good news is that we can detect radiation in very small, minute amounts. So as long as we keep testing, we will know when and if the levels get anywhere close to dangerous to our health.

2. Radiation from Microwave Cooking

Microwaves cook and warm food by radiating it. So far, the microwave radiation process has been shown to be safe. Use microwave safe containers whenever you are heating food so any contaminants don’t leach into your food.

3. Food Irradiation

The third main way we get radiation in food is through a process of killing bacteria, mold, and insects called food irradiation. It was approved back in the 1960s and has been used on meats, spices, and other produce ever since. When a food is irradiated, it carries the “radura” symbol (shown above) which is an international designation that the food has been irradiated.

Bottom Line

In my opinion, the disaster in Japan is a tragedy and something of concern. However, the amount of radiation detected so far in this country is very small. The impact on our health is also minute—so far. The EPA is monitoring radiation content, and as consumers we need to trust that our food is tested and safe. The stress some people are bringing on themselves worrying about this problem can likely be more detrimental than the actual exposure. 

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Tags: Nutrition Trends

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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