Irradiation is physical treatment of food with high-energy ionising radiation to:
- Destroy micro-organisms, viruses, bacteria or insects;
- Prevent germination and sprouting of potatoes, onions and garlic;
- Slow down ripening and ageing of fruit and vegetables;
- Prolong the shelf life and prevent food-borne diseases in meat, poultry and seafood.
Its use is limited but authorised in many countries.
When is food irradiation authorised?
Treating food with ionising radiation may be authorised if:
- there is reasonable technological need;
- it poses no health hazard;
- it benefits consumers;
- it does not replace hygiene, health or good manufacturing or agricultural practice;
Irradiated food or one containing irradiated ingredients must be labelled.
Food irradiation has nothing to do with radioactive contamination of food resulting from a spill or an accident.