Many foods sold today are sold in dried form. This includes spices, teas and different dried fruits, produce items or other forms of preserved foods. While consumers may not stop and think about this, if left in their natural form these foods would be a prime growth medium for bacteria, mold and other types of microorganisms that would be present after the drying process.
To eliminate this type of potentially deadly contamination, radiation decontamination is used for many of these foods. This is not a process that has any impact on the drying or preserving method; rather it is used after the food item is ready for packaging and sale.
How it Works
The basics of radiation decontamination are very simple. The food material, in the dry or preserved form, is exposed in specialized chambers to gamma rays. The exposure time varies on the type of food and the emission of the gamma rays.
There is no heat or moisture required during this process, so it does not change the food at a molecular or chemical level. It is impossible to tell by tasting food if it has been through the radiation decontamination process.
However, not all foods are ideally processed using this method. For those foods, there is an alternative option that uses exposure to a gas, ethylene oxide, and then a flushing or drawing off of the gas to complete the process.
Common Consumer Concerns
There has been a lot of misinformation provided to the public about the use of gamma radiation in food processing. There is no risk to the consumer eating or using this food. In fact, there is no change in nutritional value and no residual radiation or contamination from the process.
Using the process of irradiating food is highly effective in preventing mold, bacteria, pests and even parasites that could exist in food if not treated by an effective method.
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