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The Next Step: Food Irradiation Essay

2155 words - 9 pages

According to Michael T. Osterholm and Andrew P. Norgan, “An estimated 76 million cases of foodborne disease, resulting in more than 325,000 hospitalizations and 5000 deaths, occur in the United States annually”(1). For a first world country those numbers are staggering. One of the biggest questions about the statistic is, how could the illness be avoided? Quite obviously, the illness was caused by food, which means there must have been some sort of pathogen or bacteria on the food that some poor person ingested, unknowingly. In order to prevent more illness a possible new approach should be taken towards food safety. Currently not much food is irradiated in the United States, and the food ...view middle of the document...

Radiation has been used for food safety across the world for many years. The doses to use on food vary from high to low and are dependent on the amount of sterilization that the food requires. Radiation is measured in grays, which is an SI unit used internationally. According to Osterholm, Michael T., and Andrew P. Norgan, “Less than 1 kGy (low dose) for disinfestation and the extension of shelf life; 1 to 10 kGy (pasteurizing dose) for pasteurization of meats, poultry, and other foods; and more than 10 kGy (high dose) for sterilization or for the reduction of the number of microbes in spices”(1). One kilo gray is equvialnt to 1000 gray. For comparison purposes, in an x ray a person receives .0004 gray of radiation. The amount used for food is quite higher, but this also allows the food to be made safer for human consumption. The last two doses will be the focus of the next paragraph, namely pasteurization and sterilization of various foods.
Pasteurization has been used across the globe since the 19 hundreds. The process most commonly used on milk does not completely sterilize the milk, but instead destroys or stops the growth of most of the harmful pathogens in the milk. Conventionally the food heats up to a specific temperature at which the pathogens die or become unable to reproduce, then cools to a temperature that refrigerates the food. This process could be expedited through irradiation, according to Osterholm, Michael T., and Andrew P. Norgan, “Pasteurization by irradiation is not intended to eliminate all bacteria in meat and poultry but, rather, to eliminate all pathogenic microorganisms” (1). Since food can be pasteurized though irradiation, the process of heating and cooling the food could be eliminated. This would help the food industry because the process of heating and cooling takes large amounts of energy and takes a long time as well. With irradiation, the pasteurization process would be quicker with the same results, a food that has the microbes removed or unable to grow.
Contrasting sterilization and pasteurization is quite simple. Sterilization removes all forms of microbial life, including spores, bacteria, and viruses, while pasteurization simple makes them unable to grow or kills select one. In the case of irradiation, as mentioned earlier, 1 to 10 kGy for pasteurization and 10 kGy for sterilization. Canning foods is a type of sterilization. Foods have been caned for centuries and allows a food to not spoil for years. According to Osterholm, Michael T., and Andrew P. Norgan, “Sterilization . . . is defined by its ability to achieve a reduction in Clostridium botulinum spores of at least 12 log, which is the standard level of microbial reduction in commercial canning”(2). For the food industry irradiation could become the new canning. Canning foods involves copious amounts of salt, sugar, or a week acid in order to make an environment that is not suitable for microbes to grow. In addition, the food must be sterilized with...

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