Achieving Food Safety Goals Through Food Irradiation in India
Food safety has increasingly become a critical issue these days. Pathogens and insects not only decrease the shelf life of food but also decrease the nutritional value, quality and safety of the food item. Food irradiation is a technology that changes both the facts. It increases the shelf life of the food by eliminating pathogens and insects. You can irradiate both frozen and fresh food. Also, it doesn’t affect the nutritive value of food.
The process of food irradiation uses ion radiation. The food and the food packet is exposed to the ion radiation like gamma rays, x-rays or electron beams without direct contact. The radiation frees the electrons from their bonds of atoms, called ionizing. You can use the radioactive substance or electromagnetic radiations for the irradiation of food.
Food irradiation has various benefits. It eliminates the chance of food-borne illness. It also slows down or prevents spoilage of the food, along with maturation and sprouting. The dosage of radiation can either kill the pathogens and micro-organisms in the food and can slow down or prevent their reproduction. It can slow down the process of food spoiling and ripening.
It is used for those who are at a high risk of getting affected by infected food. On a large scale It is used to sterilize the food for extending the shelf life of food in storage. The special diets for patients and the food for astronauts are made completely sterile. These food items that can tolerate the sufficient dosage of food irradiation.
Although food irradiation prevents the risk of spoilage and infection, it does cause some chemical changes in the food, altering the chemical content, nutritional content, along with its sensory qualities. It can also change the flavour and nutrition of the food irradiated as cooking does. However, these changes aren't harmful as the general misconception goes. The food doesn't become radioactive. The food quality doesn't get significantly affected by the irradiation.
How to identify irradiated food
According to the FDA, all the food items that have been irradiated must be marked. They carry an international symbol which is a Rudra symbol with the writing ‘treated with radiation or irradiation'. Fruits and vegetables are individually labelled while the packed food must have that label on the container.
Food irradiation has changed the way the food industry works. It has also reduced the chances of foodborne diseases and has increased the duration for which the food can be stored. But it is not a replacement for the proper food practices for handling them. The process for storing, handling, and cooking of these food items should be the same as non-irradiated food. If the basic rules are not followed, irradiated food can also become contaminated. Irradiation keeps the food safe from viruses, bacteria, insects and pathogens.