Submitted to: Food Technology
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: November 1, 2004
Publication Date: November 15, 2004
Citation: Sommers, C.H. 2004. Food irradiation is already here. Food Technology. 58(11): 22. Technical Abstract: Ionizing radiation is used to sterilize medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, sterilize vaccines, decontaminate cosmetics, and for materials processing. There are approximately 60 commercial irradiation facilities operating in the U.S. Irradiation is also used to inactivate pathogenic bacteria and parasites in food and agricultural products, and for phytosanitary purposes. Irradiation of food and agricultural products is allowed in about forty countries around the globe. This editorial, that introduces the Scientific Status Summary written for the Institute of Food Technologists by Dr. Suresh Pillai (Texas A&M University) and Dr. J. Scott Smith (Kansas State University) reviews recent advances in food irradiation including approval of irradiation of red meat by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997 and introduction of irradiated ground beef into the U.S. National School Lunch Program. The slow, but steady, acceptance of irradiated ground beef by industry and consumers is closely linked to educational programs that provide factual information surrounding irradiated foods, especially irradiated ground beef. This factual information includes: 1) Irradiation can inactivate pathogenic bacteria occasionally found in ground beef such as E.coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes; 2) Irradiation of food does not make food radioactive; 3) Irradiation, when used appropriately, does not change the aroma, taste, aftertaste, texture or overall liking of ground beef, or irradiated frozen ground beef supplied as part of the National School Lunch Program; 4) There is no detectable increase in the risk of cancer associated with long-term consumption of radiation-pasteurized meat, or other foods, as determined by multi-species, multi-generation feeding studies conducted in animals; 5) Irradiated ground beef is nutritious and wholesome; and 6) Irradiation is only effective as part of a comprehensive program designed to improve the microbiological safety of ground beef, not to 'clean up' unacceptable product. As scientists and food technologists we have a responsibility to ensure that the public has accurate and factual information, based on sound science, regarding the food irradiation process.