Food irradiation is the process in which food and food packages are exposed to ionizing radiations to increase their shelf life while eliminating the microorganisms and other insects which could spoil the food.
Like pasteurisation saves milk from spoilage and canning of vegetables and fruits keep them fresh for a longer time, in the same manner, food irradiation can make food safe for consumption. It is only in 1994, that the Government of India approved Food Irradiation in India for onions, potatoes and spices for internal marketing and consumption.
There are generally three sources of irradiation that are approved by the FDA to be used on foods- gamma rays, x-rays and electron beams. The FDA, the WHO (World Health Organization), the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) have all endorsed irradiated food to be safe for consumption. Irradiating food can serve many benefits:
- Preventing Foodborne Illnesses: They can get rid of the organisms which can cause foodborne illnesses like the Escherichia Coli and Salmonella.
- Controls Insects: They destroy insects that are present on the various tropical fruits that are imported. Irradiation practices also decrease the need for other pest control activities which more often than not tend to harm the quality of the fruit.
- Delay of Ripening or Sprouting: In vegetables like potatoes, irradiation can inhibit sprouting and can delay ripening in some fruits to increase their longevity.
- Preservation: Inactive organisms can cause spoilage and decomposition of food items. Therefore, irradiation techniques are adopted to destroy these organisms and increase the shelf life of the foods.
- Sterilization: Irradiation methods can sterilize food so that they can be stored without the necessity of refrigeration. These sterilized foods can be used in hospital settings for patients who have severe weakness in their immune system, like the patients undergoing chemotherapy or patients suffering from AIDS.
If you want to know if you are consuming irradiated food items or not, make sure to check for the “Radura Symbol” before buying food products from next time. Along with the symbol, the statement “Treated with radiation” or “Treated by radiation” should also exist on the food label.
Food Irradiation in India is slowly sprouting and Symec Engineers is one of the pioneers in the country to support Food Irradiation Practices. We have successfully completed several gamma irradiation plants in the country and abroad and continue to spread the advantages of adopting Food Irradiation techniques for safer food consumption.