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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Toxicological Safety of Irradiated Foods

Authors
item Sommers, Christopher
item Delincee, Henry - FRCNH, KARLSRUHE, GERMANY
item Smith, J - KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
item Marchioni, Eric - ILLKIRCH,GRAFFENSTADEN,GE

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: November 11, 2005
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Irradiation of food and agricultural products is allowed in over 60 countries around the world, and has only been allowed only after extensive testing for toxicological safety. Studies conducted over a 50 year period found no detectable increases in the risk of cancer or birth defects associated with long-term consumption of radiation-pasteurized meat and poultry, or other foods, as determined by multi-species, multi-generation feeding studies conducted in animals. Recently, objections to food irradiation have focused on the potential toxicity of a class of compounds called 2-alkylcyclobutanones (2-ACBs), which are formed at part-per-billion levels in irradiated foods by the radiolysis of fatty acids. Mutagenicity testing of purified 2-ACBs has failed to detect 2-ACB induced mutations using test systems such as the Salmonella Mutagenicity Test, the E.coli TRP Assay, and the Mouse Lymphoma Assay that are recommended by regulatory agencies such as the U.S. FDA. However, oxidative DNA damage and DNA strand breakage has been detected, using the Comet Assay, in some human and rodent cells treated in vitro with 2-ACBs, while 2-ACBs have failed to cause DNA damage other human and rodent cell lines using the same test. Like fatty acids commonly consumed at gram per day quantities as part of a normal diet, highly purified 2-ACBs may be tumor promoters when fed to rodents at pharmacological doses. While it is almost impossible to prove the absolute safety of any food or food processing technology, it is difficult to conceive, considering the toxicological database, that radiation pasteurization of foods, including meat and poultry, pose a significant risk to human health.

Last Modified: 9/21/2014
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