Sunday, November 15, 2009

Irradiation Of Cat Food Causes Paralysis

Well, this is interesting...

Cats fed dry cat food that had been irradiated (Orijen brand from Champion Petfoods Ltd of Canada) suffered forms of paralysis and subsequent death. Many were euthanized.1

It does appear that irradiation of the food caused the illness:
"Previously published data and strong circumstantial evidence in this outbreak suggest that single-dose gamma irradiation of dry pet food at high levels (>36.3 kGy) is associated with the development of leucoencephalopathy in cats. We suggest that food irradiated at high levels should not be fed to cats as it poses a significant risk of severe neurological disease.

Orijen was subject to a total gamma irradiation dose >50 kGy on entry to Australia."
How consumption of irradiated food may cause neurological damage:
"Irradiation results in the production of ions and free radicals, including high-energy oxygen radicals, that are used to kill or damage pathogenic organisms in food. Irradiation doses of foods for human consumption normally range from less than 1 up to 10 kGy. Larger doses (30 kGy) have been approved for dried herbs, spices and dehydrated vegetables. Oxygen radicals produced by irradiation will also cause the formation of lipid oxides by directly reacting with membrane lipids and other lipids in foods, and some foods such as fatty fish and meat are not considered good candidates for irradiation. Irradiation also induces chemical changes in carbohydrates and proteins by the action of hydroxyl radicals and hydrated electrons generated from water molecules to produce radiolytic products. These products are also generated in cooking or pasteurisation."
So, the dose of radiation was thought to be significant in this case, but the risk from chronic, low-dose exposure wasn't ruled out:
"However, the mechanism by which changes induced in foods then result in damage to the white matter of the spinal cord and brain is not clear. Whether a single insult to the CNS results in on-going damage or whether the damage is the result of cumulative or repeated insult remains speculative."
Maybe this is something just unique to cats? I know the USDA/FSIS is considering (and the American Meat Institute is endorsing) the use of radiation on beef to reduce risk from foodborne pathogens. Some ground beef on the market is already irradiated.

I wonder what happened to all that recalled cat and dog food, in so much as "the fate of salvaged pet food ... it gets turned into feed for pigs, poultry, and farmed fish," according to Marion Nestle.
1 Ataxia And Paralysis In Cats In Australia Associated With Exposure To An Imported Gamma-Irradiated Commercial Dry Pet Food, Australian Veterinary Journal, September 2009
Full (pdf)
Rundown from Felipedia: Effect Of Gamma-Irradiated Commercial Dry Pet Food In Cats


Bryan - oz4caster said...

While this is only anecdotal evidence, I certainly don't want to eat irradiated foods. This is yet another example of how new methods are not thoroughly tested before being sprung upon the public.

I've read cooking meat that is fed to cats destroys the taurine, which is an essential protein for cats. Perhaps the irradiation also destroys the taurine, although the symptoms described don't seem to match.

Here's a discussion about raw cat food. said...

Scary stuff!

Anonymous said...

All pet foods shipped into Australia must be irradiated – treated with radiation – before they are sold. Orijen has no control over this, this is a mandated issue from the government of Australia

Tania Cummings said...

Anonymous, I am afraid that is not correct. I am the owner of one of the Australian cats affected. I am still engaged in lengthy and very detailed correspondence with Biosecurity Australia and the Quarantine Service about what safety studies were done before gamma irradiation was adopted as a pet food quarantine measure, and they have been clear all along that not all pet food is irradiated upon entry to Australia but it is offered as an OPTION to importers of pet food which has not undergone sufficient heat processing during production to meet our stringent quarantine requirements. The alternatives are gamma irradiation, further moist heat treatment, or don't import it. These are the conditions of granting the import licence. It should be clarified that most imported pet food has undergone satisfactory heat treatment during manufacture and does not require further treatment for an import licence to be granted. Orijen is cooked at a lower temperature and did not meet quarantine requirements. The importer was offered gamma irradiation as an option. I have seen the import paperwork which was released under the Australian Freedom of Information Act upon application. In this paperwork are emails showing that the importer told Quarantine he would ask Champion Petfoods, the manufacturers of Orijen, about the irradiation and seek their opinion. This was in August 2007. Five days later the importer emailed Quarantine again to say Champion had given consent to irradiation and the costs. Champion had every control over this procedure. They were being economical with the truth when they told the media Australia "mandated" the treatment and they had no choice. Furthermore, they were being economical with the truth when they told the affected Australian cat owners that they did not know the Orijen food had been irradiated until after it was on retail shelves here, and that they didn't find out until August 2008 when they were presented with the invoices for the irradiation by their importer. Remember, the import paperwork indicates they agreed to the irradiaion and to the costs a year prior.

We also need to be careful about saying it only seems to be the cats that are affected. The cats showed overt signs and symptoms but not until four months after commencement of feeding. We don't know what covert symptoms are occurring in people or other animals that eat irradiated food. Something happens to food on irradiation, it didn't happen to the cats, it happened to the food. The cats just happened to be the flags that something was not right. There are forty years of studies detailed at length in the book "Zapped! Irradiation and the death of food" by Wenonah Hauter and Mark Worth of Food and Water Watch USA. These studies show a wide range of various adverse effects in a range of animal species - including humans, under a range of feeding conditions.
I have sent multiple copies of this book to Biosecurity Australia, Quarantine, the Minister and opposition Senators. Questions have been placed on notice by a senator at my request regarding the safety studies carried out when this procedure was introduced. I will publish the answers online when they are received. I will also post a link to the documents obtained under the FOI act which shows that Champion were not innocent and were not fair dinkum with us Australian owners about what they did and didn't know or agree to. I'll bookmark this page and revert in due course. Tania Cummings Sydney Australia

Tania Cummings said...

Here is the link to the import licence application documents released under the Australian Freedom of Information Act. It's a lot of reading and the Govt have blacked out identifying names/sensitive commercial interest information.
The critical pages proving that it was OPTIONAL and the importer reporting that Champion AGREED to the irradiation are pages 52 to 54.

Tania Cummings, Sydney Australia

Tania Cummings said...

And this is what Champion's representative who was placed on a pet chat forum to answer questions had to say:
From Clark Stride 1 Dec 2008
Our bags were not labeled with an irradiation sticker when they left our facility. We did not find out this was done to our product until after it was on the market.

Quote from: Clark Stride on November 30, 2008, 08:09:14 AM
Hello Cato:

Champion did not know our food would be irradiated when it arrived in Australia, we found out after it was done.
We had no control of the levels of irradiation applied to our product.
When we did find out we made the assumption that the company(s) hired by the Australian government would know the affects (if any) of the irradiation process on the products that it was being applied too. We were not consulted prior too or told the level of irradiation that had been applied.

First post on page


Last post on page

And the son of the founder of the company claimed the same thing when I telephoned him on December 18th, the night my cat was formally diagnosed. Typed synopsis of conversation has sworn by me under statutory decaration witnessed by a Justice of the Peace.

I understand that when I make claims of this nature I need to provide evidence to substantiate them. Thank you.
Tania Cummings Sydney

Bix said...

Tania ... I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your pet. As a past cat owner, I know the attachment that can develop.

I'm sorry your loss appears to be the result of a hasty and careless business decision. Makes it that much more infuriating.

I'm thankful for people like you who speak out, write letters, send books! It's how change happens.

An aside ...the study I linked said that food which has been irradiated at levels above 36 kGy should not be fed to cats. However, Wikipedia says that doses up to 70 kGy are being used on "packaged meat, poultry and their products which are shelf stable without refrigeration." You would hope no cat is fed this food unknowingly. (And dogs? livestock animals? humans? We're entering some treacherous waters.)

Tania Cummings said...

Thank you Bix for your kind words and support. My cat is actually still with me, she is one of the less unfortunate ones in that she survived. However she is crippled and incontinent. There is still hope that she will one day walk again but it's been nearly a year now. She is otherwise healthy and enjoys the best quality of life under the circumstances. Best wishes Tania

Anonymous said...

I hope you realize that your ignorant anti scientific campaign against nuclear technology continues to send thousands to a pointless grave.

I hope someday you stop sleeping at night because of this.

Anonymous said...

Frontline interview with Carol Tucker Foreman. Excerpt-
Do you support irradiating ground beef?

I'm not opposed to irradiating ground beef. If I were supplying a nursing home, I'd probably make sure that the meat came in irradiated. My concern is that I don't want a system that says you can have fecal matter all over it, and then irradiate it. Irradiated poop won't make you sick, but it's still poop. ...

There are some worker safety concerns with irradiation. There are some environmental safety concerns. It's very expensive, and if it's not used exactly right, it makes the meat taste really bad. Those last two are important reasons why irradiation hasn't been adopted more widely. ...

Effects of gamma irradiation and pasteurization on the nutritive composition of commercially available animal diets.

The oxidation of benzo[a]pyrene mediated by lipid peroxidation in irradiated synthetic diets.

RB said...

Systemic problems in food production have caused a increase in e.coli O157:H7. The problems include feeding corn to cattle (not their natural food) which changes the acidity of the cattles' stomach so O157:H7 is not killed. The cattle are crowded in pens on feed lots where they stand in their own feces which O157:H7 is spread.

To mitigate the problem with e.coli
meat packers use technological measures such as using ammonia to cleanse meat meant for human
consumption. (From movie Food Inc.) Irradiation is another technological mitigation strategy. Instead of fixing the system problems with feed lot production, ammonia or irradiation are used to attempt to kill the contamination after the fact. See: