|MadSci Network: Physics|
The area and idea of irradiating meat is one gaining more acceptance. For many years fruits, vegetables, and eggs have been irradiated to extend shelf life as well as kill harmful insects and bacteria. The idea to irradiate meat is not a new concept. The effects of radiation on fruits, vegetables, and eggs were probably the first known, documented, and accepted as good practices. However, there were questions on the effects to meat we had not yet studied and funding for this area, as well as political incentives, kept the venture of irradiating meat behind times. Anyway, one of the main questions posed to ANY facility irradiating food, or even medical instruments (scalpels, scissors, etc.), is one of relaxed preparation methods. It does not matter how much you irradiate the food or instrument, if there are contaminants elsewhere in the processing line, the food or instrument will still become contaminated. With fruit, vegetables, and eggs, the processing is relatively simple and the introduction for a contaminate is considered low (not zero, but quite close). Please be aware that most fruits, vegetables and eggs are irradiated whole - there is no process at this point where the foods are broken open. Their original skin/shell remains intact. This is the point of great consideration for meat irradiation - there is no "skin" or "shell" in which to protect the rest of the food from potential contamination once it is irradiated. Many health organizations and consumers are afraid that companies may see irradiation as the "kill all" method when processing meat. This means the company considers irradiation to kill anything in the meat and is ready for consumption. This is a valid consideration from consumers and health organizations. When meat is processed, it is taken from an animal, cut up or ground up, maybe some additional processing, and packaged for distribution. There are all sorts of sources from which a contaminate may be introduced after meat is irradiated. Since there is no "skin" to protect the meat, conveyors may be contaminated with something and pass it on to the meat as well as any other process or packaging method. Processing meat is not an easy process to figure out where the appropriate place is to irradiate meat. Some place irradiation at the end of the process, but it is still not an excuse for not following safe and hygienic meat processing practices and methods. This is the major consideration of protestors. Many countries have taken on irradiating significant sources of processed meat. The cost of irradiating meat and the cost of illness, disease, death, and loss of a valuable food source has been sufficiently weighted. They have also given consideration to the safety and hygienic practices their processors utilize and if not instituted regulatory oversight for these processes. As far as changes in meat texture, vitamin content, chemicals in meat, etc., I have included a list of web sites to help address these questions. Some are valid questions on whether or not to irradiate meat. However, the overall safety of irradiated meat has been studied and is a consideration many countries are looking into. And irradiation does not cause the meat to become radioactive. http://www.iaea.or.at/worldatom/inforesource/other/food/index.html http://www.food-irradiation.com/ http://www.eatright.org/airradi.html http://www.ific.org/ http://www.foodsafety.ufl.edu/wheel/ww2337.htm
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