Independant Study Project On Food Irradiation.

1922 words - 8 pages

Irradiation: A Safe Measure for Safer FoodConsumers beware! Are you afraid of the food on your plate? Well you should be if the hidden enemies lurking on your food have not been eradicated. "The threat is dangerous food-borne microorganisms that are tasteless, odorless, and invisible to the naked eye."(Acheson 1) Fortunately, forty years of research have proven that irradiation is a safe and effective method of killing bacteria and other disease causing microorganisms in food. Food irradiation continues to be a reliable technique that exposes food to controlled amounts of radiant energy for a specific time. In doing so, this radiation pasteurization further benefits food by slowing down the ripening of certain fruits and vegetables, giving them a longer life of freshness. It decreases nearly all of the harmful pathogens in the meat supply and specific kinds of fresh produce before it gets to the consumer. In spite of this safe, sanctioned food processing technology, public concern has been voiced about the loss of nutritional value in irradiated food and that food becomes "radioactive" potentially promoting cancer. Yet food irradiation has been shown to be a successful food preservation process that should be extensively used to prevent foodborne diseases. Irradiation is an effective treatment to kill disease-causingShenoy 2organisms in food, maintains food quality, and has been endorsed by scientists in the United States government as well as other agencies around the world.Food irradiation is highly successful in eliminating disease-causing organisms. Much like pasteurization of liquids such as milk and juices, which uses heat energy to make them sterile, irradiation pasteurizes solid food to make it safe. The irradiation process is achieved by exposing food to any one of three different types of radiant energy: gamma rays, x-rays, and electron beams. In each of these processes, light energy passes through the food like a ray of light may pass through a window. ("United States Department of Agriculture. Food Safety") The treatment time varies from about five to eight minutes for strawberries, to an average of twenty minutes for chicken.Gamma rays have been used routinely for over 30 years to sterilize medical and dental equipment (Food). They are a powerful source of radiation, which can penetrate food to a depth of several feet such as in irradiating a large volume of potatoes in bulk. This method of using gamma rays involves a rack of four hundred gamma-ray-emitting cobalt-60 "pencils." Each ray or "pencil" is eighteen feet long and about the diameter of a fat crayon. The rays are housed inside of a chamber, surrounded by a concrete wall that is six feet thick. When the racks are not in use, they are submerged in a fifteen-foot deep pool of cool water that absorbs and neutralizes the gamma rays. If the racks are needed, a push of a button will bring the hydraulic arms out of the pool. The food to be irradiated then slides into the irradiation...

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