Food Irradiation: A Global Food Safety Tool

Food IrradiationDeveloped by the International Consultative Group on Food Irradiation (ICGFI) and the International Food Information Council Foundation.

Food is one of the most important necessities in life. Fortunately, many advanced and several developing countries have abundant supplies of fresh, safe and nutritious foods. Yet, despite the many precautions and processes in place to ensure a safe food supply, microbial contamination is still a concern, even in advanced countries. There are a number of food processing tools available that provide additional protection for the foods we consume. One very promising tool is food irradiation, which is a process of imparting ionizing energy to food to kill microorganisms. Sometimes it is referred to as “electronic pasteurization” where electricity is used or as “cold pasteurization” as an insignificant amount of heat occurs in the treated food. Just like traditional heat pasteurization of milk, food irradiation can enhance the safety of foods such as meat, chicken, seafood, and spices, which cannot be pasteurized by heat without changing their nature to a cooked, rather than a raw form. It is not a substitute for safe food handling and good manufacturing practices by processors, retailers, and consumers alike, since bacteria could be reintroduced later.

What is Food Irradiation?

Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to an ionizing energy to kill harmful bacteria and other organisms, and extend shelf-life. It is a safe process and has been approved by some 50 countries worldwide and applied commercially in the USA, Japan, and several European countries for many years. Approved irradiated foods include fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and seafood, roots and tubers, cereals, legumes, spices and dried vegetable seasonings.

Irradiation can help meat, poultry and seafood keep longer by reducing spoilage-causing microbes.

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