Irradiation process is a technology that can be used to ensure food safety and extend shelf life of foods. The application of ionizing radiation reduces or eliminates microorganisms and pathogens in foods. Just like pasteurizing milk and canning fruits and vegetables kills microbes and makes food safer for the consumer so irradiation also does the same. Irradiation is used on foods like fruits, vegetables, spices, raw poultry, meats or sea foods safe.
According to the latest FSSAI News some changes have been proposed in the regulations and labelling of irradiated foods. FSSAI also approves of the fact that the radiation process of foods increases food safety because
· It prevents foodborne illness as the process eliminates organisms that cause them such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli)
· It destroys or reduces organisms that cause spoilage and decomposition so food is preserved better and shelf life is extended.
· It destroy insects inside or on tropical fruits imported into other countries and decreases the need for harmful pest-control practices
· It delays sprouting and ripening of fruit to increase longevity.
· The process sterilizes foods, which can then be stored for years without refrigeration.
Most countries around the world acknowledge that while there are no food safety reasons for foods to be labelled as irradiated but they consider irradiation labelling a requirement as it enables consumers to make a choice whether to buy or not buy irradiated foods. Consumers identify irradiated food easily because of the international symbol (green radura logo) used for irradiated foods. Except for the labelling there is no other way to recognise irradiated foods as they look, feel, smell and taste just like all other processed and packaged foods.
A number of countries feel that specific irradiated labelling is not required as such foods comply with Food Safety norms. However, there are others that feel that irradiation labelling is required including labelling of irradiated ingredients if they are used in mixed foods. In developed countries consumers are aware that foods are irradiated and they even consider them safe to consume. However, at the same time they are concerned about the environmental impact of irradiation and health concerns for people who undertake to carry out Irradiation of foods. Those in the food processing industry, who use the irradiation process on foods, feel that labelling foods as irradiated has a negative impact on consumers who avoid buying such foods because of food safety concerns about such foods being radioactive; which is actually not true.
One thing consumers need to keep in mind to ensure food safety is that because irradiated foods are free of microorganisms they do not require hygienic handling and cooking. There are a number of restaurants that use irradiated meats, vegetables, fruits and spices and they must ensure safe and hygienic handling of irradiated foods and maintain full sanitation of surfaces to maintain food safety. Irradiated foods must be cooked and chilled to the correct temperature as recommended by regulations, just as they do with any other kinds of foods.