Irradiation

Exposure to radiation. Meat is sometimes irradiated to kill micro-organisms and reduce the number of microbes present due to unsanitary practices, but this process alters the nutritional quality and creates new chemicals that can be harmful to the humans who consume the meat. Many believe that there has not been enough testing to know whether irradiated food is safe for humans. For more information, visit our Food Irradiation Issues page or Food and Watch Watch's food irradiation page. (ST) ----- Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to radiant energy in order to reduce or eliminate bacteria, therefore making it more resistant to spoilage. Forms of radiant energy include: microwave and infrared radiation, which heat food during cooking; visible light or ultraviolet light, which are used to dry food or kill surface microorganisms; and ionizing radiation, which penetrates deeply into food, killing microorganisms without raising the temperature of the food significantly. Food is most often irradiated commercially to reduce the numbers of pathogenic microorganisms, to extend shelf-life, or to eliminate insect pests. Irradiation is a process of using high-energy Gamma rays, electron beams, or X-rays to kill potential pathogens in food. The amount of radiation used can vary and the amount if pathogens affected by irradiation can be variable. Food that has been irradiated must either have “irradiated” as part of the product name or be labeled with the claim “treated with irradiation” or “treated with radiation” and also display the Radura symbol. The FDA requires labeling on whole irradiated fruits and vegetables. However, the FDA does not require the “treated with irradiation” label on processed foods made with irradiated ingredients or on spices. The USDA’s rules regarding labeling of irradiated foods are similar to the FDA’s regulations, but only apply to meat and poultry. However, unlike the FDA, the USDA requires that irradiated meat ingredients in multi-ingredient products, such as sausages, must be listed in the ingredients on the package. (AWA)