Why are Foods Irradiated? Christine Bruhn, PhD, director of the Center for Consumer Research at University of California-Davis, and a professor in the UC-Davis Department of Food Science and Safety, explains why foods are irradiated in this video from IFT.

Q: What is food irradiation?

A: It is exposure to a carefully measured level of energy. If you expose food to a little energy – meaning an X-ray or a gamma ray – it will keep insects out of food products. If you treat it a little more, you can destroy food-borne bacteria like salmonella and E. coli. If you use even more, it will destroy any spoilage bacteria and make it shelf stable. It is worthwhile to note that health authorities such as the CDC have shown that hundreds of lives could be saved every year if only half the ground beef, poultry and processed meats were irradiated. This is a tool to help reduce food-borne illness.

Q: Is it safe to irradiate foods?

A: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluations have clearly shown there is no increased risk from irradiated foods in regards to nutrition, microbiology and chemical safety. We see people dying from food-borne illness, and we have a way to reduce these deaths through irradiation.

Q: Do grocery stores carry irradiated foods? How do you know if your food has been irradiated?

A: There are several grocery stores that do carry irradiated foods. All irradiated food is labeled with a symbol called the Radura.

Symbol: Irradiated Food

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