With increased awareness of possible serious illness caused by contaminated food, the food industry is constantly researching new methods for protecting our food supply. Irradiation technology is one of the techniques that has aided in the reduction of harmful pathogens, such as E. coli and Salmonella, in a number of foods, thereby preventing illness and death caused by foodborne illness.
Irradiation technology, in relation to the food supply, is a process in which food is exposed to radiant energy in quantities great enough to cause bacteria and other harmful microbes to become inactive. Not only does the process greatly reduce foodborne pathogens, but it also greatly increases the shelf life of food. For example, some varieties of untreated fruit may spoil in a few days, but the same fruit may remain fresh four times longer when it has been irradiated.
Many countries allow food to be treated with radiant energy. In the United States, the government allows the technology to be used on a wide range of foods. Fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, poultry and eggs, and red meat are among the foods that are most often treated with irradiation technology.