Cooking Tips and Advice - Print - Irradiation Technology

Irradiation Technology - Cooking Tips

view article online:


Food Irradiation | Misconceptions Concerning Irradiated Food

Food Irradiation

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.

Misconceptions Concerning Irradiated Food

Although the use of radiant energy has been proven absolutely safe due to decades of extensive research, many people naturally have concerns about its use. Several misconceptions have surfaced due to the use of radiant energy to treat foods.

  1. A common misconception is that irradiated food is radioactive, which is entirely false. Irradiation has no effect on food other than its intended purpose of deactivating harmful pathogens. Food treated with radiant energy has the same look, feel, smell, taste, and nutritional qualities as food that has not been irradiated.

  2. Another false notion is that irradiated foods do not require the same inspection methods as non-irradiated foods items. Foods treated with radiant energy are subject to the same inspection and quality control measures as untreated foods.

  3. Since irradiation greatly reduces harmful microbes in food, some people believe that proper food handling and food safety procedures are not necessary, but this is totally false. Proper food handling practices should always be followed. Consider the following list:

    1. Wash hands thoroughly before handling and preparing foods.
    2. Be aware of cross contamination during food preparation.
    3. Thaw meat in the refrigerator.
    4. Cook food completely.
    5. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
    6. Promptly refrigerate leftovers.


Note: Foods that have been irradiated have been labeled as such. This is a requirement of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). An international symbol of green petals in a broken circle will be found on the label if a food item has been irradiated.