Last Updated : 2020-05-13 06:57:16
Food irradiation is a process that improves the safety of food and extends the shelf life by eliminating bacteria and some unwanted microorganisms. This process is used mostly on pasteurized milk and canned fruits and vegetables. The food is exposed to doses of ionizing energy, or, radiation. At low doses, irradiation extends the shelf life of a product and at high doses it kills insects, molds, yeasts, and harmful organisms. A lot of research has been done to prove that irradiation is safe.
Food is exposed to ionizing radiation, either from Gamma rays or powerful x rays. Gamma radiation has long been used to sterilize medical, dental, and household products. It has also been used as a radiation treatment for cancer. X-rays are produced by reflecting a high-energy stream of electrons of a substance and into the food. Gamma rays and x-rays are a form of radiation that shares characteristics with microwaves, but with much higher energy. The rays pass through the food like it would in a microwave oven, but the food does not heat up to a significant extent. Exposure to Gamma rays do not make the food radioactive. X-rays are produced using electricity, which can be switched on or off at any time, they do not require radioactive material. Albeit, Food irradiation cannot kill viruses.
In Canada, potatoes, mangoes, poultry, shrimps, onions, wheat, flour, whole wheat flour, and whole or ground spices are permitted. In February 2017, Health Canada authorized the use of ionizing radiation to treat raw ground beef and fish. Food Irradiation is not mandatory in Canada. In fact, pre-packaged foods that have been wholly irradiated must display the international radiation symbol along with a statement that say the food has been irradiated. Food that is not pre-packaged has to display this sticker as well. Pre-packaged foods that contain irradiation ingredients that sums more than 10% of the finished product must be identified in the list of irradiated ingredients. If it does not go over 10%, then the product is exempted from labeling the ingredient. Dairy products and eggs cannot be irradiated because it will change the flavor or texture.
There are many benefits to Food irradiation, such as, eliminating food-borne illnesses such as Salmonella and E coli. Irradiation destroys and inactivates organisms that causes the food to spoil or decompose. Thus, the shelf life of the food is extended. Irradiation gets rid of unwanted insects as well. A lot of the times, tropical fruits imported from different parts of the world bring along a few crawlers that may bring diseases, terminating them for the sake of consumers is always good. In the presence of food irradiation, there is now less need for some additives, such as preservatives and antioxidants. Furthermore, Food Irradiation delays the sprouting and ripening of vegetables and increases its longevity. Last but not the least, Food Irradiation is used to sterilize foods so that it can be stored longer without the need of refrigeration. Sterilized foods are used in places like the hospital, for those patients who have a weak immune systems.
Irradiation causes minimal changes to the chemical composition of the food. It can alter the nutrient contents in some foods because it reduces some level of some of the B-group vitamins. However, this loss of vitamins is similar to the loss that occurs when food is cooked or preserved in a traditional, more accepted way. A lot of people believe that irradiated foods are radioactive, therefor harmful to eat. This is just a myth. Significant research has been done and extensive testing has demonstrated that irradiated food is safe just like canning and freezing. There are concerns that not enough hygiene is taken into consideration with irradiated foods. Irradiation is not suitable for good hygiene purposes. Therefore, the same hygiene measures which include proper sanitation, packaging, storage, and preparation still need to be followed. Irradiation cannot restore stale food.
There are still protests and petitions all around the world that claim for the end of food irradiation. They claim that irradiation changes the taste and odor of the food claiming it smells like Rotten, metallic, burnt, grassy. The taste is described as hair, burnt feathers, and burnt oil. Meat can turn green, brown, yellow, and moldy. There is much ongoing research focused on this problem, but food scientists still do not understand how this occurs.
There are many theories whether or not irradiation is safe. In my opinion irradiation should not be banned. In our day and age, unwanted organisms are everywhere the air, the ground. Somehow, someway germs will live on the food. If irradiation can eliminate the organisms that are harmful to the body, then why not? Far too many researches have proven that there are no radioactive waves left in the food then there should be no harm in consuming the product.
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