Why should I care about irradiated food?
- 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.
Even when meat, poultry, and eggs are prepared with the most advanced sanitation measures possible, harmful bacteria may still be present. Irradiation provides an additional safeguard for the consumer, destroying 99.9 percent or more of E.coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, and other harmful bacteria that may be in raw food.
Good quality tropical fruits can be shipped to California and other states because irradiation destroys harmful fruit flies, such as the Mediterranean fruit fly, before they become an infestation problem.
Irradiation increases the shelf life of several fresh foods because it slows the ripening of fruit and prevents potatoes and onions from sprouting. Spices and herbs have been fumigated to increase safety. Irradiation can replace chemical fumigation, producing safe, high quality spices and herbs.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of irradiation to increase the saftey of fresh sprouts because it can destroy harmful bacteria that may be under the sprout seed coat. The FDA may also soon approve irradiation or prepared luncheon meats, and other ready-to-eat foods because the process can increase the safety of such prepackaged, perishable foods.