Food irradiation is the process of eliminating microorganisms and insects from food. Irradiation uses ionizing radiation that is deemed safe by the food and drug administration. The radioactive doesn’t really compromise the taste or the nutritional value of the food. In fact, the changes made by irradiation are so minimal that they can hardly be spotted.
Approved radiation for food irradiation
Since radiation can sometimes take away the nutritional value of the food or affect the taste of it, the FDA has approved three sources of radiation for food irradiation.
- Gamma rays are emitted from radioactive element cobalt and cesium. Gamma rays are often used to sterilize medical and household products.
- X-rays are also used on food and medical products to produce an image of the inside of the structure.
- The electron beam is the third source and almost the same as X-rays.
Why is it important to irradiate food?
Food irradiation is the technology that improves the safety of the food and extends its shelf life. It is quite an effective way of protecting food from microorganisms. It serves numerous purposes including the followings –
Increased shelf life-Food irradiation destroys all disease-causing bacteria and microorganisms to increase the shelf life of the food.
To delay ripening and sprouting – Many roots like potatoes and onions are subjected to ionizing radiation to prevent them from sprouting early.
Sterilization – Through irradiation, food can be sterilized and can be kept safe even at an uncontrolled temperature. Sterilized food is often used in hospitals for patients having a low immune system and no tolerance for microorganisms.
Is food irradiation safe practice and licensed?
Food irradiation is an extremely safe practice. In fact, irradiation makes meat safer by destroying active organisms, parasites, and bacteria. The irradiation process does not make the food radioactive, and the loss of nutritional value is insignificant.
Food Irradiation is considered safe all over the world and has been practiced for decades.
How do I identify if my food is irradiated?
Irradiated food cannot be identified by smell, taste, or sight. Therefore, authorities require irradiated food to be labeled properly. Labeling of irradiation gives the consumer the freedom to decide whether or not they want to consume food treated with ionizing radiation.
However, it must be kept in mind that irradiated food is not immune to microorganisms, and bacteria therefore must be handled and consumed carefully, keeping in mind the basic food safety rules.
Food irradiation is a safe, reliable, and efficient process of increasing the hygiene and shelf life of the food. Six decades of research in the field found no risks or health hazards. In fact, it has been allowed to be used without any restrictions. However, deciding whether you want the technology in your food or not boils down to personal choice.