Food Irradiation and Its Effects on Consumer Health

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Food Irradiation and Its Effects on Consumer Health Food irradiation is a process that the food industry uses to reduce harmful, disease causing bacteria and increase the shelf life of foods by destroying decay causing microbes. While this process has been proven to be safe by the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, public misconception of the process has created doubts as to its safety and effectiveness. Through public awareness and education of this process, many concerns and misbeliefs can be dispelled. Food irradiation is performed using three different technologies, using three different kind of rays: gamma rays, x-rays, and electron beams. The different uses will depend on the food being irradiated as each technology has strengths and weaknesses. Gamma ray irradiation is very powerful and can penetrate substances deeply. It also yields substantial uniformity of the does in the product and decays to non-radioactive nickel. But the radioactive source, commonly Cesium-137, requires frequent replenishment and treatment of the food is relatively slow. Additionally, protective barriers must be in place when this form is used to protect workers and the environment. Electron beam irradiation is a stream of high energy electrons propelled from an electron gun, similar to the device used in television sets to produce images on screens. This technology is very advantageous as it can simply be turned on and off for the required duration and does not involve any radioactive materials so protective equipment does not have to be as extreme as the gamma radiation. This technology is at a disadvantage in that it does not penetrate as deeply, requires large amounts of power, and is very complex and requires a high level of maintenance. X-ray technology is relatively new and offers many of the same advantages and disadvantages
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