Food irradiation has been identified as a safe technology with numerous advantages for the consumer and the agricultural industry.
Irradiation can extend the shelf life of many perishable foods, increase the quality of fruits grown in areas that require insect quarantine measures. The most important advantage is the destruction of microorganisms which could otherwise lead to illness or death.
These web pages provide science-based information on this technology and links to other sources of information, both those that support and oppose the use of irradiation.
Irradiation improves food saftey and quality.
Even though the food supply has achieved a high level of safety, hazards exist. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths occur each year due to foodborne illness. Although all are at risk, children, people over age 55, diabetics, and those whose immunity is compromised are especially vulnerable.
Irradiation provides protection that is unavailable by any other means against foodborne illness.
The Food and Drug Administration approved irradiation of meat products for controlling disease-causing micro-organisms on December 3, 1997. The approval applies to fresh and frozen red meats such as beef, lamb and pork. USDA approved irradiation in December, 1999.
Research on food irradiation dates back to the turn of the century. The first U.S. and British patents were issued for use of ionizing radiation to kill bacteria in foods in 1905. Food irradiation gained significant momentum in 1947 when researchers found that meat and other foods could be sterillized by high energy and the process was seen to have potential to preserve food for military troops in the field. To establish the safety and effectiveness of the irradiation process, the U.S.