Skip Navigation

Digital Collection Portal

Home Projects Publications Archives About Sign Up or Log In

Food Irradiation: Will It Keep the Doctor Away?

This article, written by P. J. Skerrett for the Massachussets Institute of Technology's Technology Review (November/December 1997), favors the process and, in an interesting sidebar, compares the controversy over it with the controversy over milk pasteurization in the early 1900's.

Previously approved for use on poultry and fruits and vegetables in the US, irradiation can kill disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella and Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (discussed in the Scout Report for Science and Engineering's In the News section, September 17, 1997), and molds and funguses that cause rot. With recent US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, irradiation can now be used to process red meat (e.g., beef, pork, lamb, and byproducts). The process involves exposing food to a source of radiation such as gamma rays from radioactive cobalt 60, cesium 137, or x-rays. No radioactive material is added to the product, and the technique is routinely used on grains and spices, as well as for sterilizing disposable medical devices. In spite of a number of tests conducted over the last 30 years substantiating its safety, irradiation has not gained widespread public acceptance in the US. This is largely due to the public's general fear of processes utilizing radiation. Supporters of the technology claim that it will virtually eliminate food-borne illness in the US, while skeptics feel that technology such as steam treatment can accomplish adequate sterilization without the purported risks and public concern associated with irradiation.

Archived Scout Publication URL
Date Issued
Date of Scout Publication
December 10th, 1997
Date Of Record Creation
April 3rd, 2003 at 5:24pm
Date Of Record Release
April 3rd, 2003 at 5:24pm
Resource URL Clicks


Cumulative Rating
Add Comment


(no comments available yet)