- The idea is a century old.
As soon as Wilhelm Röntgen discovered radiation in 1895, scientists dreamed of using it to kill off pathogens hitching a ride on dinner. But actual experiments didn’t really get cooking until the 1950s, when the US Army used spent nuclear fuel rods to irradiate meat and vegetables. (Sounds like the opening scene of a B movie.)
- It’s not dangerous (in the way you think it is).
It’s true that the process causes chemical changes, but so does the food processing technology known as cooking. Still, as the high-energy gamma rays, x-rays, and electron beams kill off microbes that can harm you, they’re also killing microbes that help maintain intestinal health.
- You’re probably eating stuff treated with it already.
You can shun foods with the telltale plant-in-a-circle label, but it’s used on onion powder and spices found in prepared foods like chips and taco mix. Astronauts can’t escape it—NASA irradiates their meat. (Explosive diarrhea and zero gravity are a bad combination.)