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Information @ a Glance

  • Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation to destroy microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, or insects that might be present in the food. Further applications include sprout inhibition, delay of ripening, increase of juice yield, and improvement of re-hydration.

  • Food irradiation is a technology that can be safely used to reduce food losses due to deterioration and to control contamination causing illness and death.

  • Food is irradiated for many reasons. It is used by food processors to destroy bacteria including the parasites, moulds and yeasts that spoil food and salmonella and campylobactor that cause illness.

  • Irradiated foods have much fewer harmful bacteria than other foods. So, irradiated foods are particularly useful for older individuals with increased sensitivity to foodborne illness , patients with cancer, HIV, or other illnesse.

  • Food irradiation is carried out in special containment areas where the food is exposed to a defined dose of radiation in a continuous or batch process.

  • Three different irradiation technologies exist, that use three different kinds of rays: gamma rays, electron beams and x-rays.

  • The use of radiation in food processing is by no means new. Meats, fish, fruits and vegetables have been preserved for centuries by the sunís energy.

  • The use of ionizing radiation to sterilize, disinfect, and preserve food is becoming more widespread as technology enables safer irradiation practices; however, public sentiment, wary of the use of radiation, is resisting its implementation.

  • The foods are not changed in nutritional value and they are not made dangerous as a result of the irradiation. The high energy ray is absorbed as it passes through food, and gives up its energy. The food is slightly warmed. Some treated foods may taste slightly different, just as pasteurized milk tastes slightly different from unpasteurized milk.

  • The first country to grant a clearance for human consumption of irradiated foods was the former Soviet Union. In March 1958, the former Soviet government granted a clearance to irradiate potatoes to inhibit sprouting and a year later, a clearance was given for grain to be irradiated for insect infestation.

  • Globally, national legislation is still very divergent. This lack of international harmonization is seen as a major impediment to international trade as it constitutes a non-tariff barrier.

  • Labeling of foods treated with ionizing energy has been one of the most controversial issues related to commercial production. The Joint FAO/IAEA/WHO Expert Committee concluded that for irradiated foods which had been approved as safe to eat, there was no valid scientific reason for identifying the products with a label at the retail level when similar labeling is not required for the other commonly used processing methods .

  • The commercialization of food irradiation is also increasing. Retail stores that offer irradiated products for sale are experiencing positive consumer responses.

  • The cost of food irradiation is influenced by dose requirements, the food's tolerance of radiation, handling conditions, i.e., packaging and stacking requirements, construction costs, financing arrangements, and other variables particular to the situation.

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