FDA allows ionizing radiation to control foodborne pathogens in crustaceans

April 14, 2014

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has amended its current food additive regulations to allow the safe use of ionizing radiation on crustaceans (e.g., crab, shrimp, lobster, crayfish, and prawns) to control foodborne pathogens and extend the shelf life. This decision is a response to a food additive petition submitted by the National Fisheries Institute, and is based on a rigorous safety assessment that considered the potential toxicity, the effect of irradiation on nutrients, and potential microbiological risk that may result from treating crustaceans with ionizing radiation. The evaluation also considered previous evaluations of the safety of irradiation of other foods including poultry, meat, molluscan shellfish, iceberg lettuce, and fresh spinach. This rule covers raw, frozen, cooked, partially cooked, shelled, or dried crustaceans, or cooked, or ready-to-cook, crustaceans processed with spices or small amounts of other food ingredients.

At the maximum permitted dose of 6.0 kiloGray, this new use of ionizing radiation will reduce, but not entirely eliminate, the number of pathogenic microorganisms in or on crustaceans. The maximum dosage of irradiation approved is capable of reducing a number of pathogens that may be found in crustaceans, including Listeria, Vibrio, and E. coli. Irradiation is not a substitute for proper food-handling practices; therefore, crustaceans treated with ionizing radiation must be stored, handled, and cooked in the same way as non-irradiated foods.

Under 21 CFR 179.26(c), the FDA requires that irradiated foods bear the international symbol for irradiation (radura) and carry the statement “treated with radiation” or “treated by irradiation” on the food label. Consumers will continue to be able to identify irradiated foods, including crustaceans, by the presence of the irradiation statement and symbol on the label. For foods not in package form, the logo and phrase must be displayed to the purchaser with either the labeling of the bulk container plainly in view or a counter sign, car, or other appropriate device bearing the information that the product has been treated with radiation. The FDA does not require that multi-ingredient foods that contain ingredients that have been irradiated (e.g., spices) be labeled if the food itself has not been irradiated, nor does it require labeling of irradiated food served in restaurants.

Press release