Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice on behalf of the Food Irradiation Processing Alliance (FIPA) and the International Irradiation Association (iiA).
December  2012
From the Editor's Desk:

The beef industry's progress in ensuring a safe beef supply has been great, and the risk of contamination is falling, unfortunately the risks as a result of potential contamination are increasing.

Prior to the recent E. coli O157:H7 recalls in Canada, the North American beef industry  had been quietly celebrating one of the more successful summers relative to E. coli. The beef industry has spent billions of dollars in building a safer food supply since the tragic Jack-in-the-Box case in 1993, and it's made incredible strides in reducing the occurrence of food-borne outbreaks.

The XL Foods contamination aftermath illustrates once again the imperative nature of food safety. This is true not only from the perspective of the costs and concerns regarding human suffering, and the devastating financial impacts on the companies involved, but also the secondary effects on the industry from a demand standpoint. The situation also illustrates that only the biggest of the big operators can hope to survive a food safety outbreak of any magnitude, and potentially not even then.

Dr. Rick Holley's opinion piece published in the Winnipeg Free Press is candid, timely and right on target.  

Read more here. Dr. Holley says, "Expanded zero tolerance legislation for pathogens like toxigenic E. coli and salmonella in raw foods is not the solution; the only certainties with this approach are more testing and greater waste with nothing left to eat. Our next challenge is the safety of mechanically tenderized whole muscle cuts, which can be contaminated by the blades as they penetrate the meat's surface, thereby forcing deadly bacteria into the center of the cut.

We are at a point of diminishing returns in food safety measures, and the last remaining viable solution to pathogen contamination is irradiation." Thank you Dr. Holley for telling the world what more should say. Hopefully, the wise will take your advice. 

Ronald F. Eustice is a food quality & safety assurance consultant based in Minneapolis. He can be reached at: 

Food irradiation -- a gift horse?
Irradiating ground beef a decade-old hot potato
Irradiation in the Production, Processing and Handling of Food
FDA Expands Irradiation Uses for Meat and Poultry
Multi-purpose Gamma Irradiation Facility in Sri Lanka to be completed by June 2013
Beef Crisis is a good time to revisit irradiation
Food irradiation -- a gift horse? Real progress in cutting food-borne illness turns on irradiation; By Rick Holley, PhD; University of Manitoba; Winnipeg Free Press (November 3, 2012): 

Beef crisis could have been prevented. 

Canadians who were alarmed by the recent outbreak of E. coli sickness from beef should know that pathogen contamination in processing plants cannot be prevented. If we really want to prevent outbreaks, we have to look at expanded use of irradiation.

Health Canada data show food-borne illness is a close second to diabetes in terms of pressure on the health system. Accurate yearly analysis is not possible because food-borne illness is voluntarily and inconsistently reported by provinces and territories to the national reporting system.

Available data show little progress in resolving challenges associated with contaminated food either here or in the U.S. There is concern -- because there is no strategy to implement interventions or ability to evaluate their effectiveness -- that safe food in Canada is more by accident than by design. Read more here...  

Irradiating ground beef a decade-old hot potato: Health Canada gave favourable review to process in 2000; Canadian Cattlemen's Association; (November 22, 2012):

Staff with Canada's cattle producer body once thought it would be just a matter of time before Canadian food companies would get the green light to start irradiating ground beef.

That was a decade ago, when the Canadian Cattlemen's Association submitted a petition to Health Canada seeking regulatory approval for use of irradiation as another tool to reduce pathogens in meat.

At year's end in 2000, things looked promising. Health Canada had given the proposal a favourable recommendation and public consultations were ahead.

Now, "I'm not entirely sure to this day why we don't have the ability to use this," said Mark Klassen, director of technical services with the CCA.

"The best I understand is there were concerns whether the public would accept this." Read  more here... 

Irradiation in the Production, Processing and Handling of Food; Federal Register; Food and Drug Administration Nov. 30, 2012): 
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is amending the food additive regulations to increase the maximum dose of ionizing radiation permitted in the treatment of poultry products, to include specific language intended to clarify the poultry products covered by the regulations, and to remove the limitation that any packaging used during irradiation of poultry shall not exclude oxygen. This action is in response to a petition filed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS).
Based on the data and studies submitted in the petition and other information in the Agency's files, FDA concludes that the proposed use of irradiation to treat fresh (refrigerated and unrefrigerated) poultry food products [3] with absorbed doses that will not exceed 4.5 kGy and frozen poultry products not to exceed 7.0 kGy is safe with no need for a requirement that the packaging shall not exclude oxygen, and therefore, ยง 179.26 should be amended as set forth in this document. Read more here...

FDA Expands Irradiation Uses for Meat and Poultry; Food Safety News; (December 3, 2012).

Meat and poultry producers who use ionized radiation to kill pathogens in product now have expanded options, thanks to two rules published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday.

The first rule allows for the irradiation of unrefrigerated raw meat. Previously, only refrigerated or frozen meats could be irradiated, but FDA says research on the meat treated at higher temperatures shows that this application poses no health risk.

The second rule ups the dose of absorbed ionizing radiation in poultry from 3.0 kilogray (kGy) to 4.5 kGy. While this higher dose is already allowed in meat and molluscan shellfish, the limit had remained at 3.0 kGy for poultry until now.

The two rules were issued in response to two petitions filed in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

FDA says that since that time, it has received many comments from consumer advocacy groups - including Public Citizen and the Center for Food Safety - requesting the denial of both petitions, as well as the denial of another rule permitting irradiation of molluscan shellfish.

However, these comments "were of a general nature" and "did not contain any substantive information that could be used in a safety evaluation of irradiated poultry," said the FDA in its new poultry irradiation rule. The agency reached the same conclusion for the comments urging denial of the new meat temperature rule. The two final rules went into effect November 30, 2012 - the day they were published. Read more... 

Multi-purpose Gamma Irradiation Facility in Sri Lanka to be completed by June 2013; Colombo Page; (November 21, 2012):

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA: The Multi-purpose Gamma Irradiation Facility (MGIF) of the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Authority currently being established in Export Processing Zone at Biyagama will be opened in June 2013. Samantha Kulatunga, the Senior Deputy Director of the Atomic Energy Authority told media Tuesday the MGIF will provide facilities to sterilize medical equipment and medicine, for plant quarantine services and to conduct experiments.

Agriculture and medical equipment manufacturers, rubber gloves manufactures, exporters, patients and the general public may benefit from this facility. Read more here... 
Beef Crisis is a good time to revisit irradiation; Western Producer; (October 26, 2012)
Another day, another extension to the beef recall connected to XL Foods. That's the way it's been going lately, though recent negative E. coli tests on carcasses in XL's plant in Brooks, Alta., suggest additions to the largest beef recall in Canadian history are being made from an abundance of caution rather than a major threat to human health. 

The recent beef recall and the 2008 Maple Leaf meat recall illustrate the widespread distribution of food products in this country and abroad.

Food safety lapses have far-reaching effects in human health and suffering, financial losses to companies and those that supply them and reductions in consumer confidence and demand.

Yet there are tools at our disposal to make food safer and limit the fallout from situations like that at XL. One of those is irradiation. It's time to seriously consider employing it if we are also serious about reducing illness caused by E. coli and its equally unpalatable cousins, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter. Read more here...  

Food Irradiation Update is being sent to you by Ronald F. Eustice on behalf of the Food Irradiation Processing Alliance (FIPA) and the International Irradiation Association (iiA).
Ronald F. Eustice
Minneapolis, MN

For more information on food irradiation visit
Remember: Food irradiation is a cold pasteurization process that will do for ground meats, produce, and other foods what thermal pasteurization did for milk decades ago.
Ronald F.  Eustice
FOOD IRRADIATION: A GUIDE FOR CONSUMERS, POLICYMAKERS AND THE MEDIA published by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) can be downloaded at Food Irradiation Book
IRRADIATED FOODS; published by the American Council on Science & Health Provides Science- provides science-based Information on food irradiation. The booklet can be downloaded at:IRRADIATED FOODS
Food Irradiation Principles and Applications
is an excellent source of information about food irradiation. For information go to:
Food Irradiation: Principles & Applications
FOOD IRRADIATION: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS is an excellent source of information on food irradiation.FOOD IRRADIATION: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS




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