Food Irradiation

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Food irradiation is a food safety technology that can eliminate disease-causing germs from foods. Like pasteurization of milk, and pressure-cooking of canned foods, treating food with ionizing radiation can kill bacteria that would otherwise cause food borne disease. The process can also control insects and parasites, reduce spoilage, and inhibit ripening and sprouting. (5) The effects of irradiation on the food and on animals and people eating irradiated food have been studied extensively. These studies show that when irradiation is used on foods, as approved, that disease-causing germs are reduced or eliminated. The food does not become radioactive, dangerous substances do not appear in the foods, and the nutrition al value of the food is essentially unchanged. (1)

Raw meat and poultry treated with irradiation could eliminate bacteria common for these foods, such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter. Irradiating prepared, ready- to –eat meats such as hot dogs and deli meats, may eliminate the risk of Listeria. Additionally, Cyclosporine parasites and bacteria such as Shigella and Salmonella from fresh produce could be removed. There is also potential benefit for dry foods that are stored for long times and transported over great distances, like spices and grains. (1)

Bulk or packaged food passes through a radiation chamber on a conveyor belt. The food does not come into contact with radioactive materials, but instead passes through a radiation beam, like a large flashlight. The type of food and the specific purpose of the irradiation determine the amount of radiation or dose, necessary to process a particular product. The speed of the belt helps to control the radiation dose delivered to the food by controlling the exposure time. (2) About 170 industrial cobalt-60 irradiators and hundreds of electron accelerators , around the world, have been processing a variety of goods. (4)

Three different irradiation technologies exist,...
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