Food Irradiation - Policy Memo

Food Irradiation - Policy Memo - Policy Framework for...

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Introduction 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 deaths. 1 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. 2 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. 3 Cobalt-60 and cesium-137 are the most common radionuclides used as sources of radiation. The process 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. 4 In produce, it inhibits sprouting, delays ripening and spoiling, and increases juice yield. 5 Because irradiation destroys disease-causing bacteria and reduces the incidence of foodborne illness, hospitals frequently feed irradiated foods to immuno-compromised patients. 6 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 7 Product Dose (kGy) Purpose Wheat, wheat flour 0.2-0.5 Insect disinfestation White potatoes 0.05-0.15 Sprout inhibition Pork 0.3-1.0 Control Trichinella Spiralis 1 Weise, Elizabeth. "USA Pays Price for Food-borne Illness: $152B a Year". Nov. 2011. <http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-03-03-food-borne-illness_N.htm> 2 Wagner, Al B. "Bacterial Food Poisoning." Web. Nov. 2011. <http://aggie- horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/poison.html> 3 "The Food Irradiation Process." Web. Nov. 2011. <http://uw-food-irradiation.engr.wisc.edu/Process.html>. 4 Ibid 5 Brennand, Charlotte P. "Food Irradiation." Web. Nov. 2011. <http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/food.htm> 6 "Commonly Asked Questions.”Web. Nov. 2011. <http://www.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/nuclear/questions.html>
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Food Irradiation - Policy Memo - Policy Framework for...

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