Irradiation of food

Irradiation of food
Irradiation of food has been approved in 37 countries for more than 40 products. The radiation of interest in food preservation is ionizing radiation, also known as irradiation. These shorter wavelengths are capable of damaging microorganisms such as those that contaminate food or cause food spoilage and deterioration. Irradiation is known as a cold process. It does not significantly increase the temperature or change the physical or sensory characteristics of most foods.Food is irradiated to provide the same benefits as when it is processed by heat, refrigeration, freezing or treated with chemicals to destroy insects, fungi or bacteria that cause food to spoil or cause human disease and to make it possible to keep food longer and in better condition in warehouses and homes.Because irradiation destroys disease causing bacteria and reduces the incidence of food borne illness, hospitals sometimes use irradiation to sterilize food for immuno-compromised patients.
Irradiated foods are wholesome and nutritious. All known methods of food processing and even storing food at room temperature for a few hours after harvesting can lower the content of some nutrients, such as vitamins. At low doses of radiation, nutrient losses are either not measurable or are not significant. At the higher doses used to extend shelf-life or control harmful bacteria, nutritional losses are less than or about the same as cooking and freezing.
As in the heat pasteurization of milk, the irradiation process greatly reduces but does not eliminate all bacteria. Irradiated poultry, for example, still requires refrigeration, but would be safe longer than untreated poultry. Strawberries that have been irradiated will last two to three weeks in the refrigerator compared to only a few days for untreated berries.Irradiation does not make food radioactive.Eating irradiated food does not present long-term health risks.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved irradiation for eliminating insects from wheat, potatoes, flour, spices, tea, fruits, and vegetables. Irradiation also can be used to control sprouting and ripening. Approval was given in 1985 to use irradiation on pork to control trichinosis. Using irradiation to control Salmonella and other harmful bacteria in chicken, turkey, and other fresh and frozen uncooked poultry was approved in May 1990.

Potential food irradiation uses
Type of food Effect of Irradiation
Meat, poultry Destroys pathogenic fish organisms, such as Salmonella, Clostridium botulinum, and Trichinae
Perishable foods Delays spoilage; retards mold growth; reduces number of microorganisms
Grain, fruit Controls insect vegetables, infestation dehydrated fruit, spices and seasonings
Onions, carrots, potatoes, garlic, ginger Inhibits sprouting
Bananas, mangos,papayas, guavas, other non-citrus fruits Delays ripening avocados, natural juices.
Grain, fruit Reduces rehydration time

Other uses of Irradiation – In addition to cancer treatment, irradiation is used for many purposes, including: performing security checks on hand luggage at airports, making tires more durable, sterilizing manure for gardens, making non-stick cookware coatings, purifying wool, sterilizing medical products like surgical gloves, and destroying bacteria in cosmetics.

Since 1986, all irradiated products must carry the international symbol called a radura, which resembles a stylized flower.