Using Irradiation To Make Food Safer For

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Using Irradiation To Make Food Safer For Consumers Essay, Research Paper Using Irradiation to Make Food Safer for Consumers In the world today, there is a limited access to fresh and uncontaminated food. Gunjan Sihna, of Popular Science, reports that “The U. S. Centers of Disease Control estimates 6.5 million confirmed cases and more than 25 million additional unreported incidents of food poisoning each year” (65). For example, with seventy-five percent of the chicken in Europe and sixty percent of the chicken in the United States infected, salmonella is a serious problem (”Food Irradiation”). The United States reports about two million cases of salmonella per year, costing an estimated 2.44 billion dollars. “All creatures carry thousands of different bacteria in

their bodies, yet most of these microbes are harmless or even beneficial,” says Sinha (65). Unfortunately, there are still many bacteria that cause problems for humans. For example, E. coli is usually found in the gut of cows. Although most people do not eat this part of the cow, the beef may sometimes be cross-contaminated if the intestines are accidentally split during slaughter. Steps are needed to minimize the risk of food contamination on the world’s population. Irradiation should be used to kill pathogens and extend the shelf life of food. After decades of exhaustive studies, experts agree that irradiation is safe and effective against food-borne pathogens. When irradiation is mentioned, many people think of nuclear radiation and then of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or of

Three Mile Island. “Do you want your food nuked?” inquire the opponents of irradiation (Satin 1-2). “Irradiation can be portrayed by anti-nuclear (sic) fanatics as something only welcome if you like chickens that come with three drumsticks, or turkey tetrazzini that glows in the dark,” says Stephen Chapman of the Chicago Tribune (3). The proponents of irradiation blame this fear on nothing more than the name, which has lead to the common misconception and association with nuclear radioactivity. Irradiation is correctly called “ionizing” in France, to avoid association with the negative meaning of the root word, radiation (Satin 3). This is not twisting it around, but simply giving another name to the same process. Irradiation is simply the process of exposing food or

some other substance to low levels of radiation. Irradiation does not make food radioactive, and it does not make it glow. In fact, every time one goes outside, one is being irradiated by the sun. If sun lotion was called “radiation protection cream or irradiation lotion,” people would be turned off at first (Satin 4). People would eventually realize that there was nothing to fear and would use it. Radiation is thought by most people only to be present in nuclear bombs and power plants. Radiation, from Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, is the process of emitting radiant energy in the form of waves or particles (”radiation”). This includes all energy in the electromagnetic spectrum. Light rays, radio waves, microwaves, and heat are all forms of radiation, and we do

not fear them. In fact, microwave ovens use radiation and are present in almost every American household. They were at one time feared, as irradiation is now. People eventually began to accept them for their efficiency and convenience. Irradiation works to disable cells by making changes to their DNA or RNA (nucleic acids). The gamma radiation used in irradiation makes changes to these highly complex macromolecules. The change is just enough to render them inoperable. Irradiation kills food pathogens, insects, and other pests. Complete sterilization can also be achieved by the use of irradiation. Salmonella, listeria, and campylobacter can be killed or greatly reduced (”Food Irradiation”). Irradiation can delay ripening and spoilage of produce. For example, potatoes often