Food irradiation is a food preservation process or method that can protect food from microorganisms, insects, and other pests that can make our food supply unsafe or undesirable. Compared with other food preservation processes, food irradiation has many advantages, such as low energy consumption and low cost (even compared with conventional refrigeration and deep freezing). It is a cold process, which means that there are no changes in texture of the food, such as those that occur with canning or freezing. Food irradiation is an excellent alternative to chemical fumigants, such as the banned ethylene dibromide, and as a process is extremely effective to control many food borne diseases, e.g., salmonellosis.
Irradiation is the process in which food is passed through a chamber, where it is exposed to gamma rays or x-rays. These high-energy rays are strong enough to break chemical bonds, destroy cell walls and cell membranes, and break down DNA. Irradiation is the process in which food is passed through a chamber, where it is exposed to gamma rays or x-rays. Irradiation kills most bacteria, molds, and insects that may contaminate food.
Because irradiation involves minimal heating, it has very little effect on the taste, texture, and nutritive value of food. In 1997, in response to several food borne illness outbreaks and increasing public concern over the safety of food supply, irradiation was approved for use on poultry products. In 1999 and 2000, irradiation was approved to curb pathogens in raw meats, including ground beef, steaks, and pork chops. Irradiation has also been used for more than 30 years to preserve some meals eaten by astronauts during long-term space missions.
Food irradiation is now recognized as another method of preserving food and ensuring its wholesomeness by sterilization or cold pasteurization, and has wide application worldwide.