Thursday, October 22, 2009


Gamma radiation for food preservation has been a subject matter of scientific research for more than 50 years and it has been more or less agreed by scientists and the industry that it is a safe method of keeping food safe for considerable length of time without fear of risks associated with pathogenic microorganisms. Effective and safe dosage of radiation, optimum for each food has also been worked out based on international consensus. However wide scale use of this 'clean' technology is constrained by two factors. First there is a misconceived notion amongst the consumers about possible residual radiation left in the product after processing though hundreds of studies have clearly ruled out such a possibility. Second, irradiation facilities are not easily available to the industry as the capital investment is very heavy and handling radiation sources is tightly controlled by the governments due to possible misuse by unsocial elements in the society.

A non technical issue which is mired in controversy is the insistence by many governments to declare on the label of products irradiated for the consumer to know about it whereas industry is resisting such a move fearing possible consumer back-lash. "Since 1999, FSIS has permitted the use of ionizing radiation for treating meat, meat byproducts, and certain meat food products so long as labels disclose the product is irradiated. But putting radiation labels on food has not gained consumer acceptance. AMI's request is different in that it wants to allow low-dose e-beam radiation over the surface of chilled carcasses as a processing aid and not disclose that the meat has been irradiated on labeling". Probably industry has a case as the technology used is is based on low radiation electronic beam which is considered innocuous.

Considering that pathogen related food poisoning is on the increase, especially in meat based foods, a rational decision needs to be taken and not acceding to the pleas of the industry could prove to be counter productive. This is especially true in countries like India where hygiene and sanitation standards and environmental quality are very poor and irradiation technology only can help to reduce the incidence of food borne diseases significantly.

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