Is that Banana Irradiated? Here’s How to Tell.

You know how you start out innocently on the internet and see something of interest so you click? And pretty soon you’ve disappeared down a rabbit hole and your dishes still need to be washed and laundry needs to be hung and you never planted those seeds? That’s how this started. I don’t recall how I came across this information, what prompted me to say, “Hey, wait a minute!” and dig a little deeper. I had no intention of writing about irradiated food but here I am. Will this make you more self-sufficient? Maybe in a roundabout way, if you decide that you’d just as soon avoid treated food. Maybe not. Maybe you don’t care if you’re eating irradiated food. Me? I want you to at least know what you’re putting in your mouth and have the opportunity to make a conscious decision.

That benign looking graphic up there indicates that a food product has been irradiated. This FDA website says:

FDA requires that irradiated foods bear the international symbol for irradiation. Look for the Radura symbol along with the statement “Treated with radiation” or “Treated by irradiation” on the food label. Bulk foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are required to be individually labeled or to have a label next to the sale container. FDA does not require that individual ingredients in multi-ingredient foods (e.g., spices) be labeled.

Well, isn’t that sweet. That pretty little flower doesn’t mean “grown in the sunshine” like you might guess. But that’s not all. As I was chasing internet butterflies, I ran across the term “cold pasteurized.” While there’s all kinds of inference on the internet, I wasn’t able to find a definitive answer as to what, exactly, that meant. So I contacted the FDA. Here’s what they had to say:

[C]old pasteurization is defined as the treatment of fresh or processed foods with ionizing radiation that inactivates biological contaminants (insects, molds, parasites, or bacteria), rendering foods safe to consume and extending their storage lifetime.

While I did not ask the FDA about the term “electronic pasteurization,” it’s also been linked to irradiation.

So there you have it. A couple of extra little clues to help you maneuver the grocery store. Or another solid nudge to encourage you to grow your own food or seek out a local farmer.

One question that remains is this: Are products that are repackaged by the grocery store – think meat that’s been packaged into different cuts – required to carry the Radura symbol for retail sale? Or is that FDA requirement fulfilled as long as the meat was marked when it arrived at the back door?

Want to know more about food irradiation? In the “It’s fine, don’t worry, trust us” category we have:

And in the “WTF are they thinking?” category:

What about you? Does the idea of irradiated food worry you?

This post may include affiliate links. Any income derived from said affiliate links may go toward buying seeds for my garden.

  • Oh geesh. We always buy organic bananas at the local food co-op, but it looks like even those could be irradiated? I will be looking for that friendly little symbol that’s not so environmentally friendly or safe for us.

  • Heather Anderson ,

    This is a good reminder. We grow a lot of food, and try to buy locally whenever we can. However, bananas are one thing we buy fairly frequently. I have known about radiation but not thought about it for a while. By the way, I believe that organic canNOT be irradiated. I know I’ll be checking into it again.

  • awakewellness ,

    Thanks for sharing this info – I had no idea that there was a handy graphic to let us know when a food has been irradiated. Personally, I’m in the ‘avoid irradiated food when I can’ camp – if it’s killing the bad for you things that may be on or in a food, it’s likely killing the good for you stuff too. It’s too bad that there’s such an easy and loophole to get through to not include the symbol though. I imagine that most irradiated ingredients end up being processed into something else.

  • wisehabits ,

    Thank you for sharing this information. I had no idea there was a symbol for irradiated foods. I just checked my bananas and they are clear. :) Out of curiosity I’ll have to go check out some of the produce in the local big-box grocery store . . .the one I don’t shop at because they have nothing organic or local.

  • Merrilee ,

    Hi everybody! As a PhD microbiologist, and grower of my own garden, I always seek out the freshest local food when possible. However, living in central PA, USA there’s not much available during the long winter months. I actually LOVE the irradiated food idea, much preferable to chemical pesticides. The potential for contamination by bacteria during growing, harvesting, and shipping is enormous, and I’m glad we have some options when it comes to food safety treatments. Just wanted you to hear from “the other side!”

  • JaneDSalemi ,

    I love this post. It’s very timely for me. I was just talking about this subject with my kids as we were picking out fruit at our local natural market. Can organic foods be irradiated?

  • JaneDSalemi ,

    I love this post. It’s very timely for me. I was just talking about this subject with my kids as we were picking out fruit at our local natural market. We came up with questions like “Can organic food be irradiated? and since we already knew the hazards of chemical pesticides on our bodies, we started wondering what the hazards of irradiation were for people?

  • Will keep my eyes open even wider while shopping. Thanks for this tip.

  • Emily Strawser ,

    I really appreciate the knowledge that you share with us all!

  • Alexandra Dibble Pitts ,

    Thank you! I really appreciate you digging into this even if it meant a sink full of unwashed dishes.

  • Sheryl ,

    That’s kind of disturbing; having a symbol like that look like a GOOD thing. So misleading, I think. Thanks for the intel!

  • Karen ,

    That certainly is a concerning topic but I’m happy to say I’ve never seen that symbol on any of the food that I bring into my house. I’m very familiar with the labels on every piece of our food and I’ve yet to see that one.

  • merr ,

    I’ll be hypervigilant from now on when I see stickers on fruit. I mean, I already am vigilant, but this calls for hyper.

  • Interesting–so what do you make of Merrilee’s comments? As a Midwestern too in the long winter months fresh produce tends to come from warmer places

  • Merrilee, what makes you think that irradiated food = less pesticides? I honestly don’t think one has anything to do with another. Correct me if I’m wrong? (Have you considered preserving some of your garden’s bounty to get you through the winter months?)

    • Merrilee ,

      @Attainable Sustainable I agree that pesticides/irradiation might not be mutually exclusive. I definitely do canning/freezing as much as possible, but our winters are brutal, and I crave greens, strawberries, blueberries, etc this time of year when we can’t have the fresh version. I still wash those items to remove residues, but for eggs (I have my own chickens, but this time of year laying slows way down) and fresh veggies, irradiation is an option I look for. It’s funny, because pesticides don’t need to be labelled on the final product! At least the labelling gives the option to choose it (or not, which is also fine by me). Here in the north (26 deg F right now) I just can’t wait for spring! Love your blog, and ideas for preserving the harvest!

  • I responded the other day to Merrilee, but it seems to have disappeared. Just added a response, below. Essentially, I don’t think irradiation has anything to do with preventing pesticide use.

  • It’s so hard to be shocked these days. But, once again, I’m shocked by what you have to watch out for.

  • I’m very opposed to irradiating fruits and vegetables. So it’s good to know how to recognize which ones have been irradiated. I guess it’s not all that curious that they would design a graphic that’s oh-so-benign instead of simply attaching an accepted radiation symbol to the product. Who would buy it, then? Might as well look like it’s a flower growing in your garden. (That’s what the symbol looks like to me.

  • I’m very opposed to irradiating fruits and vegetables. So it’s good to know how to recognize which ones have been irradiated. I guess it’s not all that curious that they would design a graphic that’s oh-so-benign instead of simply attaching an accepted radiation symbol to the product. Who would buy it, then? Might as well look like it’s a flower growing in your garden. (That’s what the symbol looks like to me.

  • JCreatureTravel ,

    I’m very opposed to irradiating fruits and vegetables. So it’s good to know how to recognize which ones have been irradiated. I guess it’s not all that curious that they would design a graphic that’s oh-so-benign instead of simply attaching an accepted radiation symbol to the product. Who would buy it, then? Might as well look like it’s a flower growing in your garden. (That’s what the symbol looks like to me.

  • JCreatureTravel ,

    I’m very opposed to irradiating fruits and vegetables. So it’s good to know how to recognize which ones have been irradiated. I guess it’s not all that curious that they would design a graphic that’s oh-so-benign instead of simply attaching an accepted radiation symbol to the product. Who would buy it, then? Might as well look like it’s a flower growing in your garden. (That’s what the symbol looks like to me.

  • Angie Abella ,

    considering bananas aren’t exactly natural to the US, there shouldn’t be complaints. There’s demand for them, and other nations supply it. Be grateful. My FIL used to sell bananas he and his family grew–in Cuba. There’s also spiders in those bananas, and a nice bite is deadly, depending on what country you’re in when you pick them. Why so picky on things–be grateful the Lord provides for you, instead of questioning where He provides it from!

  • Robin ,

    Irridated food is just another example of killing the good to manage a potential bad that could be better managed by sustainable, organic practices. I don’t use a microwave for the same reason. Any food product maybe irridiated and in no way reflects the level of pesticides used to grow it. We have been brainwashed that we must have all types of fresh foods year round. But these items raised in countries using pesticides we banned decades ago, travelling thousands of miles are hardly fresh foods no matter there appearance. Eat local, grown and preserve what you can, eat seasonal. I’d rather eat a dried or home canned fig or peach in January than a “fresh” peach from Peru.

  • Attainable Sustainable ,

    Angie: It’s not just bananas – that just happened to be the one I used for the title. I’m grateful every time I sit down to eat a meal – much more so when I know that it’s been grown as Mother Nature intended. You bring up a good point, though. Buying fruit from other nations (or say, the state of Hawaii) or out of season is definitely not a very sustainable option. Better to buy local from a farmer who doesn’t irradiate his food.

  • Ajfoco ,

    I hate to break the news to everyone, but you should look into how irradiated (not irridated Robin) your food is naturally. If you eat bananas, organic or not, you eat potassium 40, naturally irradiated, Brazil nut also have isotopes that are radioactive. Radiation bombards us from the sun every day, we have levels of radiation in our tissue. But these are safe levels, you need to understand that there is not good and bad foods, every good thing has a tipping scale where it becomes bad, and radiation treatment of your food isinsignificant compared to what is already in it. If you want to avoid irradiated food stop eating, and buy a lead roof while your at it.

  • bradc44 ,

    i had no idea foods where treated with radiation..pretty scary stuff! Another reason to eat organic.
    http://www.landrememberedrestaurant.com

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