Food security is a key component to the wellbeing of human beings, not only in the sense of preventing
hunger through constant availability and accessibility, but also toward healthfulness and productivity
people to society. However, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration projects that about 76
million food-related illnesses occur every year; 325,000 of which are hospitalizations and 5,000 are
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the
FDA estimates this to cost the economy $152 billion each year.
The three most expensive illnesses are
campylobacter, at $18.8 billion, which is commonly found in poultry, salmonella, at $14.6 billion, which
thrives in high-protein foods such as beef, poultry, eggs, and shellfish, and listeria, at $8.8 billion, which
is prevalent in raw milk and cheeses.
As a step toward addressing this issue, we propose that the
government take commercializing food irradiation into consideration and the potential it has to reducing
food-borne illnesses in the United States.
What is Food Irradiation?
Food irradiation exposes foods to gamma rays, x-rays, and electron beams to “ionize” foods, a process
that dislodges electrons from atoms and molecules and convert them to electrically-charged ion particles.
Cobalt-60 and cesium-137 are the most common radionuclides used as sources of radiation.
kills bacteria, viruses, and small organisms, as well as sterilizes insects.
It has been shown to be effective
in eliminating all E. Coli, salmonella, and other bacterium from contaminated foods.
In produce, it
inhibits sprouting, delays ripening and spoiling, and increases juice yield.
Because irradiation destroys
disease-causing bacteria and reduces the incidence of foodborne illness, hospitals frequently feed
irradiated foods to immuno-compromised patients.
Table 1 shows common food items and the
appropriate dosage of kGy with which they get treated.
Table 1. Foods, dosages, purposes approved for irradiation by the FDA
Wheat, wheat flour
Control Trichinella Spiralis
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2 Wagner, Al B. "Bacterial Food Poisoning." Web. Nov. 2011. <http://aggie-
3 "The Food Irradiation Process." Web. Nov. 2011. <http://uw-food-irradiation.engr.wisc.edu/Process.html>.
5 Brennand, Charlotte P. "Food Irradiation." Web. Nov. 2011. <http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/food.htm>
6 "Commonly Asked Questions.”Web. Nov. 2011.