We have one of the safest food supplies in the world, because we set standards, monitor them, and report when people get sick. There are a multitude of pathogens that cause illnesses around the world. The Norovirus has caused more foodborne outbreaks than any other bacteria or pathogen. The Norovirus is a foodborne illness that results from faulty food handling practices, which causes the Norovirus to spread onto food. The food products that are responsible for the majority of these illnesses are: produce/nuts, beef, poultry, dairy, and eggs. Out of those foods, produce and nuts were responsible for the majority of the foodborne illnesses. The ways that one can avoid these pathogens and bacteria is by consuming foods that have sanitation practices taken in each step of food processing, production, as well as in the final preparation and cooking of the food product. One should also consume foods that have been either pasteurized or irradiated, considering these processes would kill any virus or pathogen living on the food product. Food irradiation removes all pathogens with only a very slight effect on the nutrition and quality of the food product. For example, there is a slight loss of Vitamin A in eggs after they have been irradiated. Overall, the loss of nutrients from irradiated food products is so minimal that it is actually negligible. Utilizing food irradiation in our food supply would reduce the amount of food related deaths in our country. The food related deaths are mostly attributed food products that contain Salmonella, Campylobacter, Toxoplasma, Listeria, and E.Coli. The process of food irradiation involves taking the food product and exposing it to energy that ionizes the food product, which kills pathogens. Ionizing the food product kills the pathogens living on the food product because ionizing radiation damages the DNA of the pathogen.
A benefit of utilizing food irradiation is that the food after being irradiated does not look or taste any different; hence it still appears to be fresh. Food irradiation also is good considering it protects the consumer from getting sick. For instance, if a meat product was not cooked thoroughly the consumer would still not become ill if that meat product was previously irradiated. Food irradiation is considered to be safe, and is used on beef and poultry, fruits, vegetables, and many more food products. Although the FDA has approved food irradiation on a multitude of food products, it is still very difficult to find these products in your every day grocery store. Other non-food products utilize the process of irradiation as well, such as on bandages, cosmetics, rubber on athlete shoes, medical products, etc. Despite our scientific community’s approval of using food irradiation, the public still is against its usage. This likely is the reason why food irradiation has not become popular and spread to all food products. One may think that the public needs to be better informed on the topic of food irradiation, since so much of the public is against its use. With the public being better informed one would believe the percent of foodborne illnesses in this country would decline dramatically due to the more common usage of food irradiation. The utilization of food irradiation allowed for a variety of fruits to be imported from other countries to our own, considering people could then know for sure that the fruit they are consuming contains no pathogens. Overall, food irradiation is a good process since it protects the consumers from getting a foodborne illness as well as it has no negative impact on the food product itself.
Christine M. Bruhn, who is the director at the Center for Consumer Research, and a professor at UC Davis.