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August 4, 1993

The Safety of Irradiated Foods

Author Affiliations

Roswell Park Cancer Institute Buffalo, NY

JAMA. 1993;270(5):575-576. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510050041013

To the Editor.  —In his Editorial entitled "How Safe Is the Food We Eat?" Dr DuPont1 suggests: "One potentially important way to improve the microbiological safety of food is through irradiation. Ionizing radiation is a practical and safe means of reducing bacterial counts to an acceptable range." The price the consumer would pay for this reduction in bacterial counts is considerable.Irradiation of unsaturated fatty acids in foods produces peroxides that result in the formation of benzo(α)pyrene quinones,2 a known and very potent group of carcinogens. This would be particularly ironic at a time when the American public is encouraged to increase consumption of unsaturated fatty acids to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease.Irradiation of carbohydrate results in formaldehyde, and quantitative studies3 provide data that demonstrate that irradiation of 30 mg of sucrose produces 0.05 mg of formalde-hyde, which is readily detected as a mutagen in the