Radioactive isotopes are atoms with unstable nuclei that can either occur naturally or by scientists in labs. Radioisotopes have a huge and important effect on the technologies that provide us with food, water and good health. Scientists, doctors and even people everywhere have always struggled with food poisoning and food spoilage because of the insects, fungi or bacteria that can cause human disease or cause food to spoil. Food irradiation is the process in which food is made food safer and more resistant to spoilage allowing it to have a longer shelf life and to be in better condition since it kills disease-causing organisms and slows or eliminates those that cause spoilage leading to it becoming able to stay fresher for a longer period of time. The Radioisotopes that are most commonly used for irradiating foods are cobalt-60 and cesium-137. Food Irradiation has several advantages and some disadvantages which both have their cultural, health and economic effects (Uses of Radioisotopes).
In the process of food irradiation, food is exposed to the gamma rays or x-ray rays emitted from one of the two radioisotopes cobalt-60 or cesium-137 (The Food Irradiation Process).
Food Irradiation has existed since the 1950s but has been more widely used in recent years. In Asia, specifically China there are 3 large gamma irradiators which in year 2005 got 140,000 tons of food irradiated which is a huge increase from the 80,000 tons irradiated in year 2001. And in India there are two demonstration facilities that use cobalt-60 one processing 30 tons per day and the other 10 tons per day, and even though India mostly uses cobalt-60 there are some beam plants being planned as well. As for in the USA, there are 50 irradiation facilities overall (Food Irradiation Around the World).
The picture below displays how during irradiation gamma rays pass through food, in this case a strawberry, and destroy the micro-organisms that can cause disease and spoilage, yet retain the food’s high quality (Food Irradiation).
Foods that have been irradiated have a special label on them called “Radura” so that consumers would know that this food has been irradiated. The Radura label is shown on the left.
Many types of foods can be irradiated, but it is most widely used on spices, herbs and dehydrated vegetables. Some meats can also undergo food irradiation such as pork and poultry.
Food irradiation has many benefits. One of its benefits is that even though it uses radiation rays, the food that’s being irradiated using gamma rays, X-rays and accelerated electrons under controlled conditions does not become radioactive because the energy used in irradiating it is not enough to make it radioactive.
Eating radioactive foods does not present any health risks. Food irradiation is FDA, USDA, and USDE approved.
Another benefit of using food irradiation is that it doesn’t change the food’s nutritional value. And the changes that are caused by...