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What is Irradiation? Why is it important…..

Taking a Closer Look at FOOD IRRADIATION

 Industry’s Answer to a Safer Food Supply

Food irradiation is a well-researched method of treating food in order to make it safer to eat and longer lasting.

This information sheet has been sponsored by the Canadian Spice Association to help clarify some of the mystery of Food Irradiation and to help you understand its relationship to food quality.

What is Food Irradiation?

Food Irradiation is a physical means of food treatment comparable to heat pasteurization, canning or freezing.  The process involves exposing the food for a specified time to high-energy gamma rays.  The source of this energy may be electron beam, x-ray, or more commonly, cobalt 60.

The energy from these rays is sufficient to cause ionization; which is defined as any form of radiation with sufficient energy to dislodge electrons to create ions, but not enough to induce radioactivity in the product.  It is this ionizing energy that destroys harmful bacteria.

Many people ask, “Will the food become radioactive or be altered when treated with an irradiation process?”, and some have even made the mistake of ignoring virtually forty years of food science research that shows conclusively that:

Irradiated products does not become radioactive after treatment.

Irradiation can kill food borne bacteria, molds, yeasts, insects, and parasitic organisms without the use of toxic chemicals or elevated temperatures.

Irradiation will not introduce changes in the composition of food products or negatively affect the nutritional value of the treated foods.  Irradiation is the cleanest and safest method of food processing available today … yet it is the least used … Why?


FACT:  The US Council for Agricultural Science and Technology has estimated that food borne diseases caused by pathogenic bacteria such as Campylobacter Escherichia coli 0157:h7, Listeria monocyiogenes, Salmonella and Staphyloccus aureus may cause as many as 9,000 deaths and up to 33 million cases of diarrheal disease (food poisoning) each year, in the United States.

The annual economic losses in the USA associated with this food borne disease may be as high as $5 to $6 billion!

Although the Science Council of Canada does not track these statistics, it accepts the probability that Canada’s costs are proportional to the population ratio of approximately 11% compared to the United States.


Food Items Currently Irradiated in Countries Around the World:

Citrus                          Tomatoes                    Potatoes                     Onions

Garlic                           Strawberries               Papayas                      Mangoes

Mushrooms                Avocados                     Some Spices                  Tea

Beans                           Legumes                      various flours             Chicken

Frog legs                      Pork                             Sausages                     Shrimp

Various fish                 Pickle products          various grains             Rice

Yeasts                           Cherries                       Raspberries                Grapes

Currants                       Dates                            Cocoa beans               Apricots

Pears                           Asparagus                     Minced meats



Health Canada (includes Dept. of Agriculture)

Science Council of Canada

Canadian & US Institute of Tech. (CIFST, IFT)

World Health Organization (WHO)

United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO)

US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

US Food & Drug Administration (USFDA)

American Medical Association (AMA)

American Meat Institute (AMI)

Mayo Clinic

Codex Alimentarius Commission

American Spice Trade Association (ASTA)

American Council on Science & Health (USACSH)

US Council for Agricultural Science & Tech. (CAST)