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Food irradiation is the process of exposing food and food packaging to ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation, such as from gamma rays, x-rays, or electron beams .
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Cobalt is a radioactive form of the metal cobalt.


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Electron beams are generated by electricity, and can be turned on and off. Food Standards Australia New Zealand An agency which develops food standards and provides consumer information. Skip to main content. Home Your health Healthy living Environmental health Food irradiation. Food irradiation. Why food is irradiated High doses of radiation kill microorganisms or insects in the food. How irradiation works Food is irradiated by exposed it to ionising radiation.

Gamma rays The gamma rays used to irradiate food come from cobalt Electron beams Electron beams are generated by electricity, and can be turned on and off. When using gamma-ray irradiation, the food never comes into direct contact with the cobalt This stops it getting contaminated.

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    Why Don't We Irradiate all Germ-carrying Food?

    Pregnancy and birth services. A-Z A-Z. Conditions and treatments. Healthy living. Services and support. Service profiles. Blog Blog. Blog authors. Podcast Podcast. Food irradiation Share show more. Listen show more. More show more. Food irradiation is a form of food processing that can extend shelf life and reduce spoilage. Foods are exposed to radiation to kill insects, moulds and micro-organisms, but no detectable levels of radiation are left behind in the food.

    Food irradiation is a processing and preservation technique with similar results to freezing or pasteurisation. During this procedure, the food is exposed to doses of ionising energy, or radiation. At higher doses, this process kills insects, moulds, bacteria and other potentially harmful micro-organisms. Considerable scientific research over the past five decades indicates that food irradiation is a safe and effective form of processing. For each of these, FSANZ has established that there are no safety concerns and no significant nutritional changes to the food as a result of food irradiation.

    Irradiated foods will be clearly labelled so that consumers can make an informed choice. Irradiated foods and radioactivity There is a common misconception that irradiated food is radioactive. Food irradiation procedure The food is exposed to ionising radiation, either from gamma rays or a high-energy electron beam or powerful x-rays. Gamma rays and x-rays are a form of radiation that shares some characteristics with microwaves, but with much higher energy and penetration.

    The rays pass through the food just like microwaves in a microwave oven, but the food does not heat up to any significant extent. Exposure to gamma rays does not make food radioactive. Electron beams and x-rays are produced using electricity, which can be switched on or off, and they do not require radioactive material. In both cases, organisms that are responsible for spoiling foods — such as insects, moulds and bacteria, including some important food poisoning bacteria — can be killed.

    Food irradiation cannot kill viruses. Benefits of food irradiation Some of the benefits of this food processing technique include: extended shelf life of some products less food spoilage reduced risk of food-borne diseases caused by micro-organisms such as Campylobacter , Salmonella, E. Effects of irradiation on food Some foods, such as dairy foods and eggs, cannot be irradiated because it causes changes in flavour or texture. Fruits, vegetables, grain foods, spices and meats such as chicken can be irradiated.

    Biological effects of irradiation

    Irradiation causes minimal changes to the chemical composition of the food, however, it can alter the nutrient content of some foods because it reduces the level of some of the B-group vitamins. This loss is similar to those that occur when food is cooked or preserved in more traditional and accepted ways, such as canning or blanching. Community reactions to food irradiation People have expressed a number of concerns in relation to food irradiation.

    They include: radioactivity — a belief that irradiated food is radioactive and therefore harmful to eat. Irradiated foods do not become radioactive. Extensive testing has demonstrated that irradiating food is as safe as canning, pasteurising and freezing lack of choice — Australian consumers have indicated they want to be able to choose between irradiated and non-irradiated foods. However, this is regulated by FSANZ through mandatory labelling effects on food hygiene — there are concerns that the extensive use of this method of food preservation may result in less stringent food hygiene and handling practices.

    Labelling of irradiated foods If a food has been irradiated or contains irradiated ingredients or components, it must be labelled with a statement that the food, ingredients or components have been treated with ionising radiation. If a food product does not have a label such as whole fruits sold loose , this statement must be displayed in close proximity to the food.

    Proper food handling is still needed Food irradiation can only be used if it fulfils a technological need or is necessary for a food safety or food hygiene purpose. It does not replace the need for correct food handling practices in industry and in the home. For instance, a few bacteria may survive the irradiation of meat. If the meat is left unrefrigerated, these bacteria could still multiply and cause food poisoning. Where to get help Dietitians Association of Australia Tel. More information here.

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    Food irradiation

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    Food Irradiation

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