Tuesday, November 6, 2012


What type of logic it is that what is good for Americans is not good for Canadians? That seems to be essence of the continued refusal or obfuscation on the part of Canadian safety authorities to allow irradiation process for sterilization of ground meat products. Ionizing radiation generated under controlled conditions is directed to the foods to be sterilized in a closed atmosphere for varying duration, the time and dosage varying from product to product. Damage to the DNA of the pathogenic organisms is beyond repair making them incapable of multiplication, eventually leading to their death. In spite of significant consumer perception that irradiated food will emit harmful radiation affecting their health, persistent consumer education has enabled the industry to process over half a million tons of food products every year using irradiation technology. Almost 50 countries have permitted food irradiation with all international agencies including FAO and WHO certifying the safety and efficacy of food irradiation process. If this is so why should the Canadian government is prevaricating on this issue? Here is a report on this issue coming from Canada.

"Why has the Canadian government not approved the irradiation of ground beef to allow consumers the choice of buying regular or irradiated ground beef?In March 1998 the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) submitted a petition to Health Canada and according to a 2000 press release it was very optimistic that approval would happen in a timely fashion. This was a reasonable expectation by the Association because in 1997 on the basis of extensive scientific studies and the expert opinions in the United States, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the irradiation of red meat for the control of food borne pathogens. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) which is responsible for ensuring that meat products are safe, wholesome and properly labelled published its ruling in 1999. "Today Americans are consuming about 18 million pounds of irradiated red meat per year, and experiencing a rapidly growing demand to over 35 million pounds of fresh irradiated produce", according to Ron Eustice the former Executive Director of the Minnesota Beef Council. In fact for years, pioneering companies Omaha Steaks, Schwan's and Wegmans are proud to offer their customers a choice with the added food safety benefit that irradiation offers to already great-tasting beef products and hamburgers. Meanwhile in Canada we wait, denied the choice that American consumers have. Why? In the Canadian Report of the Independent Investigator into the Listeriosis Outbreak (July 2009) where 22 lives were lost, it noted "Irradiation has been proven to be the single most effective method of eradicating bacteria and it does not alter appearance, taste or texture of foods.". Yet it also stated that "Despite its many advantages, this proven technique is unlikely to be adopted by food processors without a major consumer education program." The Consumers Association of Canada commissioned a study to take the pulse on the subject of food irradiation early in 2012. While irradiation is relatively unknown in Canada, Angus Reid Public Opinion found, when Canadians polled in the survey were given a brief explanation of the process, most said they would support having irradiated food at the grocery store as a choice. The problem is that as few as 10 highly infectious E. coli O157:H7 microscopic germs can sicken and, perhaps, kill you. The manufacturing facility may be as clean as a surgical suite, and the government inspected company can take extensive samples— yet we are missing a kill step for the pathogens. So, where is the irradiated beef? Without the Canadian government approval, irradiation technology, which could have prevented economic harm to the food industry and could have prevented illness and death, cannot be used!"

The American policy of permitting the use of Irradiation Technology but insisting on declaration of the same on the label, probably, will be a via solution for this Catch 22 situation. World over use of irradiation technology must be encouraged because of its immense potential to prevent food losses and food poisoning episodes due to newly emerging virulent spoilage vectors. After all world has seen billions of dollars of investment in evolving and safety clearance of hundreds of irradiated products during the last 6 decades and this effort should not go waste by a continued mindset of resistance to the universal deployment of this clean technology. That will, to some extent, give salvation to the souls of all those who perished from the first atomic bomb dropped in Japan during World War II, thereby demonstrating the will of the mankind to use atomic energy only for peaceful uses that benefit it.


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