Food irradiation is a type of food processing technique that exposes food to ionizing radiation. This technology is designed to kill bacteria in food as well as to lengthen its shelf life. Food irradiation is very similar to pasteurization of dairy products. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved food irradiation as an effective method to boost food safety. However, the agency only approves the application ionizing radiation on foods that are determined to be safe by lab tests.
The Benefits of Food Irradiation
Prevent Pests in Grains
Some of the most important crops in the world are grain. Unfortunately, this type of food is vulnerable to pests and insects. Unless the grains are processed, impurities will end up on your plate. Food irradiation does a great job of killing microbes, pests, and insects that end up on harvested grains. The technology allows for pest-free unprocessed grains. Food irradiation also lengthened the shelf life of grains. As such, the price of this food item has decreased significantly.
Protection from Pathogens
As mentioned earlier in the post, food irradiation does a great job of killing pathogens and dangerous microbes that cause gastrointestinal diseases. In fact, food irradiation has a success rate of 90% when it comes to killing off all organisms in food after production. Also, food irradiation makes handling of fresh foods relatively safer. Since the technology has been introduced to the food industry, the rate of foodborne illnesses has decreased significantly.
Prepping food always carries the risk of cross contamination. Food irradiation helps decrease the chances of cross contamination in food preparation. People with weak immune system are vulnerable to food-borne diseases like food poisoning, salmonella, and/or E. coli infection. When the food has gone through irradiation, it is safe to consume even by those with a very sensitive stomach.
Food irritation will sterilize a variety of foods. The technique allows processed foods to be kept for years without refrigeration. These foods are often given to hospital patients who are suffering from immunity disorders such as AIDS or those who are undergoing chemotherapy.
The Drawbacks of Food Irradiation
The Taste of Food Changes
Despite its many benefits, food irradiation does come with several drawbacks. Perhaps the most notable of all is the slight change how certain food tastes. When the food is exposed to ionizing radiation, the structure of the item changes on a cellular level. These changes can affect the food’s flavor. For some, irradiated food will taste bland because the flavor is toned down. The texture of the food changes as well.
Can Make Pets Sick
Certain irradiated foods can make animals sick. As such, foods that are processed through irradiation should not be fed to animals. Studies also show that food irradiation could cause chronic diseases and genetic disorders in animals.
Not 100% Bacteria Free
Although food irradiation has a high success rate in terms of killing off dangerous pathogens, the process is not 100% effective in terms of eliminating all traces of bacteria. That’s because some bacteria are resistant to radiation.