Food irradiation studies began shortly after WWII. Scientists were looking to irradiation as a way to provide an alternative to certain chemicals and pesticides that are used to preserve foods. Today, the U.S. government approves of food irradiation as a method of food preservation. The first commercial food irradiation facility in the United States opened in Florida in January 1992. Currently, irradiation is approved for use in over 35 countries for more than 50 foods.
Food irradiation is gaining popularity because of consumer interest in:
Irradiation is a method of food preservation that uses a limited amount of ionizing radiation to:
Irradiation reduces food spoilage in two ways, by:
Food irradiation is a cold treatment of preservation; it does not raise the foods temperature significantly, such as what happens during canning. It leaves the food closer to its original state. Thus, food irradiation minimizes:
Perhaps the biggest myth regarding food irradiation and what consumers fear the most, is that the exposure of food to radiation makes the food radioactive. When food is irradiated, most of the radiation passes through the food without being absorbed. Food undergoing irradiation does not become radioactive any more than luggage passing through an airport x-ray scanner or teeth that have been x-rayed. Food irradiation does not pose any radioactive danger to consumers.
Some of the benefits of food irradiation, include the following:
Environmentally speaking, the amount of energy in food irradiation is relatively low; it produces little heat. There are no hot fluids or gases generated, and no radioactive gases are released. In addition, from an environmental viewpoint, irradiation may replace chemical fumigants, sprout inhibitors, and post-harvest fungicides.
A disadvantage of irradiating fruits and vegetables is that it may cause softening, uneven ripening, and sensitivity to chilling.
Consumers must understand that irradiation does not replace the need for proper refrigeration.
Use of irradiation on foods requires the approval of the FDA. The USDAs Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) must approve use for meats and poultry.
Foods treated with irradiation must be labeled with:
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