Food Irradiation

What is it?

You may see this symbol on some of the meat, poultry, shell eggs, fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or from your supplier. The symbol is most commonly found on ground beef packages. When food is irradiated, it is exposed to a short burst of high-energy radiation or electromagnetic energy to destroy disease-causing bacteria that can cause food poisoning. It also decreases spoilage so that shelf life can be extended. The symbol indicates the food is nearly free of bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites when it arrives, however safe food handling and storage practices must still be maintained. The same rules apply once it enters your establishment.

Not all foods will be irradiated. If a food product has been treated with radiation you will see the Radura symbol and a phrase such as "treated with irradiation" on the package. Some retail outlets or frozen food specialty companies use irradiated ground beef in all of their products. The USDA and FDA, as well as the national school lunch program, have approved its use.

Many prominent health organizations such as the World Health Organization and the American Dietetic Association have endorsed food irradiation as a safe method of controlling the level of harmful food borne bacteria.