WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The Hudson Foods hamburger recall may be just what it takes to convince Americans that it's time to accept irradiation as another technique to safeguard their food supply, two Purdue experts say.
Irradiation is little used and a lot misunderstood, but it can destroy the microorganisms responsible for food-borne illnesses and extend the shelf life of perishable foods. It is an FDA-regulated food preservation method, and currently it is allowed on foods such as spices, pork, poultry, and some fruits and vegetables. The FDA is considering approval for red meats.
"It's really hard to process raw meat without getting some contamination on it, but if it's irradiated, the bacteria are killed," says April Mason, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service assistant director and a foods and nutrition specialist.
"Irradiation is one more safety precaution. It's not in lieu of other safety precautions, such as proper cooking, but irradiation destroys the organism before it reaches the consumer."
Richard Linton, Purdue Extension specialist in food safety, says, "Cooking and irradiation are perhaps the only existing ways today to get rid of microorganisms on food."
An instance where irradiation would've been particularly helpful, Mason explains, was last spring when microbial organisms on strawberries and raspberries -- foods that often aren't cooked D caused an outbreak of food-borne illness.
It also might have avoided the Hudson Foods recall of 25 million
pounds of red meat, including hamburger patties, that may have been
contaminated with E. coli, a microorganism that can cause illness and
even death in those who consume it. A 1993 E. coli outbreak in the
Pacific Northwest, in which hundreds of people were sickened and
half a dozen children died, still lingers in people's memories. Food-
borne illnesses are never far from the headlines, making Americans
question the safety of their fo
Contact: Andrea McCann