Something you may not know about spices

Okay, so it’s pretty obvious there are two ways to purchase food like vegetables, meat, dairy- the conventional way (pasteurized, factory farmed, use of pesticides/herbicides) or the unaltered way (organic, pastured raised, raw). If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’m all for the unaltered way… you know, the way nature intended.

But did you know that the spices you are cooking with have most likely have been altered with? When I mean altered, I mean they weren’t just grown, dried and packaged.

Have you ever heard of irradiation?
Irradiation is used in all sorts of foods, including spices.

What is irradiation? Irradiation means that certain foods undergo a process called ionized radiation which increases shelf life (preservatives) and kills any bacteria that may be existing on the food. Ionized radiation includes gamma rays from nuclear materials, electrons from electron guns, and x-rays. <– Yikes!

Irradiation is pretty similar to pasteurization in that it greatly reduces bacteria and enzymes to make it “safe.” For example, strawberries that have been irradiated with last 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator but actual fresh strawberries will last only a few days. When you buy something from a legitimate local farmer, the food tends to spoil quickly ensuring a sign of safe food.

We need good bacteria and enzymes to keep a healthy digestive track so when they are virtually eliminated by irradiation our body works harder to digest food. This is why it is so important to eat truly raw foods because these foods are the carriers of beneficial bacteria and enzymes- *nudge* go get yourself some raw milk and cheese!

Irradiation creates free radicals, damaged DNA, damaged vitamins and enzymes.   
Pretty much the food gets zapped with radio waves and although we can’t see it on the outside, the food has been denatured and loses many of it’s vitamins and minerals (anywhere from 2%-95%), particularly the antioxidant vitamins A, E, C, and K, which are necessary to counteract free radicals. [1] Don’t forget, free radicals are known to be a common cancer stimulator.

Foods that can be labeled in the U.S.? [2]

  • 1963: wheat flour
  • 1964: white potatoes
  • 1986: spices, herbs, herb teas, pork, fruits and vegetables
  • 1992: poultry
  • 1997: beef
  • 1999: refrigerated or frozen raw beef, pork, lamb and poultry
  • 2000: eggs in the shell, seeds for sprouting (like alfalfa)
  • 2002: imported fruits and vegetables
  • 2002: meat purchased by the National School Lunch Program

Organic foods can not be irradiated.

Labeling of Irradiated Foods
Irradiated foods are required to be labeled with the radura symbol and some sort of text. Of course, with anything the government does, there is always a loophole where they can hide the truth to the people that deserve the truth the most- the consumer. The loophole? All irradiated foods must be labeled using the radura and some wording, but only to the FIRST PURCHASER which is often NOT the consumer.[2] From what I interpret, that means a manufacturer can buy spices in bulk from the grower, bottle them using their brand and sell to consumers but are not required to have it labeled. Pretty screwed up, huh? Does this sound familiar to another topic that is so hot in California right now? Ahem, GMO Labeling anyone? What the heck is wrong with our country that everything can be so twisted and misleading?

Check out this irradiation fact sheet

Reminder about spices
It’s important to keep in mind that one of the main functions of spices and seasonings, besides adding flavor to food, is anti-viral and anti-bacterial. To name a few: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, garlic, lemon zest, and rosemary all act as “bug” inhibitors. So when these spices are zapped of all their beneficial bacteria that serve as medicinal purposes what purpose do they really have now?

It’s important to buy non-irradiated labeled spice brands such as Frontier and Morton & Bassett (local SF company). Organic brands that are not labeled are the next option.

To avoid irradiated foods it’s even more crucial to buy from your local, trusted farmer. Check your sources!

Until next time,
Loriel – Healthy Roots, Happy Soul 

posted to: real food wednesdays

Picture Credit

6 thoughts on “Something you may not know about spices

  1. Ahhh! Do you have any brands of spices that you can recommend that have not been irradiated? When we buy fresh produce & don't eat it quick enough, we never feel bad when it spoils. Makes me feel better about what I'm eating when I see it spoil quickly! 🙂

  2. Teryn, Frontier Brand is great and if you can get it, Morton and Bassett from San Francisco also doesn't irradiate their spices.

    Agreed about the produce- scary to think these foods are lasting way longer than they should be.

  3. Morton and Morton & Bassett are two separate companies. I'm not sure if Morton irradiates their spices but I can probably guarantee it.

    It seems like anything that is big and sold in regular grocery stores contain all the bad stuff.

  4. Funny, I've found that the local produce lasts longer for me than store-bought. I assumed it was because it hadn't spent weeks in a warehouse and weeks on a shelf before getting to me.

    I buy non-irradiated labeled spices from my local health food store and they taste SO much better than the regular grocery!!

  5. Hayley- Yeah, it can all be different as far as produce. I think location and temperature can also affect how long your fresh produce will last.

    As far as the spices- I totally know what you mean. I've been buying from a local manufacturer and they really do have more flavor. And that's the way they should be!

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