views updated May 21 2018


Irradiation, or "electronic pasteurization ," exposes food to a radiant source of energy, such as gamma rays or electron beams, for a brief period of time. Irradiation is a "cold" process that produces little heat, so food can remain packaged throughout the processand until opened by the consumer. Irradiation decreases or eliminates harmful bacteria , insects, and parasites . It does not make a food radioactive, and it is allowed in nearly forty countries (including the United States, France, Israel, Russia, and China). It is also endorsed by many agencies, including the World Health Organization. Food Irradiation is not without controversy, however, and many consumer groups and organic farming organizations oppose it, believing that it can alter the cellular structure of foods and cause the production of free radicals . Other hazards cited by critics include the partial destruction of vitamins in irradiated foods, the destruction of beneficial bacteria as well as harmful bacteria, and the environmental hazard of nuclear irradiation facilities.

A logo called the "radura" is used internationally to indicate that the food has been irradiated, though some have suggested that this symbol is too benign to accurately represent the irradiation process, and that it is too similar to the symbol of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

see also Biotechnology; Food Safety.

M. Elizabeth KunkelBarbara H. D. Luccia


Institute of Food Technologists' Expert Panel on Food Safety and Nutrition (1998). Scientific Status Summary: Irradiation of Food. Chicago, IL: Author.

Satin, Morton (1996). Food Irradiation: A Guidebook, 2nd edition. Lancaster, PA: Technomic Publishing.

Internet Resources

U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. Available from <>


views updated Jun 08 2018

irradiation Exposure to nuclear or electromagnetic radiation. Materials are often irradiated with high-energy neutrons in nuclear reactors, to make them temporarily radioactive. More portable sources of such radiation are radioisotopes such as cobalt-60 and caesium-137, which are used in the irradiation treatment for cancer. Treatment also involves the use of particle accelerator, including proton and neutron beam machines. Ionizing radiation is used in food preservation to destroy bacteria and microorganisms in some foodstuffs, while in other foods, such as soft fruits, it increases shelf-life. The process of irradiation in food technology is still being closely monitored.


views updated Jun 11 2018

irradiation (i-ray-di-ay-shŏn) n.
1. exposure of the body's tissues to ionizing radiation. The source may be background radiation, diagnostic X-rays, radiotherapy, or nuclear accidents.

2. exposure of a substance or object to ionizing radiation. Irradiation of food with gamma rays to kill bacteria is a technique used in food preservation.


views updated May 11 2018

ir·ra·di·a·tion / iˌrādēˈāshən/ • n. 1. the process or fact of irradiating or being irradiated.2. Optics the apparent extension of the edges of an illuminated object seen against a dark background.


views updated May 23 2018

irradiation A method of sterilizing and disinfesting foods using ionizing radiation (X‐rays or γ‐rays) to kill micro‐organisms and insects. Also used to inhibit sprouting of potatoes. See also microwave cooking; ultraviolet radiation.


views updated May 29 2018

irradiation Exposure to any form of radiation; often exposure to ionizing radiation is implied. See also food preservation.