While stores are currently offering consumers a choice between ground beef processed by the traditional method or irradiated ground beef, Fox envisions a point where just irradiated meats are the norm rather than the exception.
"It think we will get to the point where it's essentially all irradiated products," Fox said. "If you look at milk, it's very difficult to find unpasteurized milk in the store. I think certainly 20 years from now we will look back at the fact that we were consuming non-irradiated ground beef and being somewhat amazed that we were doing that."
Unfortunately, Fox said, the process is not free and adds approximately 6 to 10 cents per pound to the processing cost. That additional cost will ultimately be passed on to consumers. But he believes consumers will be willing to pay extra for a safer product. Ultimately, Fox said the pace at which we see the share of irradiated beef growing in the market will depend on consumer demand.
Although irradiation adds an extra layer of defense against foodborne pathogens, Fox cautions that appropriate food handling techniques should still be followed.
"It's important to realize that the product will spoil," Fox said. "It is not sterile and should be handled in exactly the same way you would a regular product."