Schools are not even required to inform students and parents that they are using irradiated beef. Current FDA regulations only require that irradiated food be identified as irradiated when it is sold to the original customer. Restaurants and institutional cafeterias can use irradiated food without warning their customers. However, the USDA ruling has had little effect. Despite the fact that irradiated ground beef is being heavily promoted by the USDA and major food companies, almost no school districts are currently serving it in their cafeterias. High prices and possibly the fear of citizen complaints have stopped most schools from using any irradiated beef. Food irradiation continues to be a very controversial technology, and most consumers still reject it for many reasons.
This research paper is designed to analyze the technology of food irradiation. The advantages and drawbacks of food irradiation will be researched. Any unknown dangers that may occur due to the use or misuse of the technology will be discovered. A decision on whether food should be irradiated will be made.
Food irradiation involves the use of ionizing radiation on a food product. The radiation can be used to kill some or all of the viruses, bacteria, insects, and fungi in food. Irradiation can also be used to preserve food for a long period of time. It can delay the ripening of some fruits and vegetables.
Three different processes and three different levels of radiation are currently used on food. The three levels used are radurization, radicidation, and radappertization. Radurization involves a low dose of radiation (around 0.5 kiloGrays to 10 kiloGrays). These low levels of radiation are commonly used on foods that are alkaline and moist, such as meat and fish. Radurization is designed to kill the organisms that cause meat and fish to spoil, but the doses involved in this process are usually not sufficient to kill most organisms that cause food borne illnesses. Radicidation involves a dose of radiation that is between 3 kiloGrays and 10 kiloGrays. This level of radiation can be used to kill many types of viruses and bacteria. However, the doses that are used in radiciation are still not high enough to kill spores and many resistant types of bacteria. The bacteria that cause salmonella and botulism can survive at these radiation levels. The radiation levels used in radicidation are also high enough to cause chemical changes in food. Radappertization involves very high doses of radiation (around 25 to 60 kiloGrays). These doses are enough to completely kill nearly all of the bacteria that inhabit an item of food. Botulism and salmonella bacteria are killed at these radiation levels, and the amounts of bacteria that are left on the food product are usually low enough for the food to be considered clinically sterile. Radappertization is not usually used on food, and it is currently illegal to use this process on most types of food in most countries (Cutter, 2000).
There are also three different processes that have been currently approved to be used to irradiate food. These are electron beam, or e-beam, irradiation, gamma irradiation, and X-ray irradiation. The process of electron beam irradiation involves exposing food to a beam of electrons that have been accelerated to high speeds by a linear