USDA Signs Research Pact to Test New
Irradiator Against Foodborne Pathogens
February 12, 1997
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12--The Agriculture Department has signed a
Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Gray*Star, Inc., a
private company based in Mt. Arlington, N.J., to evaluate their irradiator for
killing foodborne pathogens like E. coli 0157:H7 on meat, poultry and
other agricultural products.
Donald W. Thayer, a research chemist with USDAs Agricultural Research Service at Wyndmoor,
Pa., will conduct the studies to evaluate the irradiator. Thayer has earned an
international reputation for his research on the safety and efficacy of using
irradiation to control food pathogens in poultry and red meat without
significant change to the nutritional quality.
In previous studies at the ARS Eastern
Regional Research Center at Wyndmoor, Thayer has determined the effects of
irradiation on foodborne pathogens such as Bacillus cereus, E. coli,
Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus on meat
and poultry. Pasteurizing food by irradiation significantly reduces the
numbers of these harmful microorganisms, Thayer said.
In tests to evaluate the irradiator, Thayer will cooperate with the company
in determining the uniformity--and factors affecting the uniformity--of the
gamma radiation dose delivered to agricultural products under controlled
temperature conditions by the irradiator.
Thayer and other ARS scientists will conduct research to determine the
effectiveness of the irradiator for the control of such foodborne pathogens as
E. coli 0157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and salmonellae on
meat or poultry or in or on other foods, and its ability to maintain suitable
environmental conditions during irradiation.
The irradiator is transportable and can be delivered to the packinghouse or
production site where food is being processed for shipment. Foods can be
pre-packaged and a standard pallet of product can be processed at once,
handling up to 10,000 pounds of produce an hour per unit.
Thayer noted that ionizing radiation from cobalt, cesium or X-rays does not
cause food to be radioactive but is quite effective in killing harmful
organisms. The irradiator can be used to control quarantine pests as well as
The Food and Drug Administration has
approved irradiation to control microorganisms in poultry and trichinosis in
pork, and is currently reviewing a petition to irradiate beef. FDA has also
approved irradiation use on fruits and vegetables.
Food irradiation is endorsed by the American Medical Association,
World Health Organization,
Institute of Food Technologists,
American Council on Science and
Health, Council on
Agricultural Science and Technology and the
American Veterinary Medical
Dynamic Industries, Inc., of Cincinnati, Ohio, will manufacture the
irradiation units for Gray*Star, Inc., using cesium-137 radioactive isotopes
from Babcock & Wilcox of Lynchburg, Va. Several units already have been
ordered by private companies, primarily for quarantine disinfestation of fruits
Scientific contact: Donald W. Thayer,
Food Safety Research, Eastern Regional
Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, 600 E. Mermaid Lane,
Wyndmoor, Pa. 19038-8551, phone (215) 233-6582, fax (215) 233-6406, e-mail
email@example.com; or Martin H.
Stein, GRAY*STAR, Inc., Mt. Arlington Corporate Center, 200 Valley Road, Mt.
Arlington, N.J. 07856, phone (201) 398-3331, fax (201) 398-8130, e-mail