Are irradiated foods hazardous to health?

Table of contents:

Are irradiated foods hazardous to health?
Are irradiated foods hazardous to health?

Food irradiation is a type of food processing and preservation technology or, as we often call it, one of the types of cold sterilization. However, there are people who believe that irradiated foods pose a latent danger to the body, is this really so? Our reporter recently interviewed a food expert.

Irradiation technology - what kind of technology is it? Associate Professor at the National Laboratory of Food Science and Technology at Jiangnan University and the current expert of the Group on Innovation in the Processing and Distribution of Industrial Technology Systems in Modern Agriculture of Jiangsu Province (Fisheries) Jiang Qixing said, “China State Standard GB18524-2016“National Food Safety Standard products: hygienic specification for food processing "gives the scientific definition of food exposure: the use of ionizing radiation to create radiochemical and radiobiological exposure of food to inhibit germination, delay or achieve maturation. In addition, radiation is used for pest control, disinfection, and conservation - these are some of the main goals of exposure."

In what specific areas is irradiation technology used? Jiang Qixing said China has approved the use of irradiation technology in certain food categories. The "National Food Safety Standard for Food Hygiene Standards" states that the types of irradiated foods must be on the list specified in GB14891, irradiation of other types of foods is prohibited.

According to the current standards GB14891.1-GB14891.8, the types of food products that are currently allowed to be irradiated in China include: boiled meat of livestock and poultry, pollen, dried fruits, candied fruits and the like, spices, fresh fruits, vegetables, pork, frozen meat of livestock and poultry, legumes, cereals and semi-finished products. The use of irradiation to suppress the germination of garlic, potatoes, and to sterilize spices is common.

However, the description of the Chinese standard GB7718-2011 "National Food Safety Standard: General Principles for Labeling Prepackaged Foods" on the labeling of irradiated foods states: "Foods treated with ionizing radiation or ionizing energy must be labeled accordingly next to the product name." "Any ingredient that has been treated with ionizing radiation or ionizing energy must be listed on the ingredient list." This is why the packaging of some foods says “irradiated product” or the ingredient list says “spices have been radiation sterilized” and other similar indications.

Can radiation harm food and the human body? “In 1980, the conclusions of a single expert commission of the International Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that the total average radiation dose absorbed by food below 10 kGy does not require toxicological experiments, as well as special nutrition and does not create a microbiological problem,”said Jiang Qixing.

Jiang Qixing believes that China's national standard GB14891 defines the maximum allowable total average radiation dose received by various foods that are allowed to be irradiated. As for the maximum permissible average absorbed dose of radiation, it should be less than 10 kGy. For this reason, as long as food is irradiated in strict accordance with the appropriate national radiation exposure standards, there are no radiation safety concerns.

Do not talk about changing the "radiation" color, you need to objectively understand radiation in life

Humanity is constantly living and increasing its numbers in a natural radiation environment. All people living on earth are constantly exposed to cosmic radiation. In addition, they are exposed to natural radioactive materials found in soil, rocks and other types of environment. Therefore, it is inevitable that the food that a person grows, the water he drinks, the houses in which he lives, the roads he walks, the air he breathes, and even his own body contain small amounts of radioactive substances.

Back in the 1950s, isotope and radiation technologies found wide application in crop breeding and radiation processing of food products, soil fertilization, pest control, animal husbandry, aquatic industries, agricultural environmental protection and other fields. They have transformed and revitalized traditional agriculture and contributed to the important development of science and technology in the field of agricultural modernization. China has achieved outstanding achievements in the field of radiation crop farming, and 18 cultivated breeds, including the No. 1 Shandong Cotton, received the State Invention Prize.

In recent years, spacecraft from the Shenzhou and others program have transported crop seeds into space to develop space-based breeding technology using space radiation, microgravity, and other effects. Thus, scientists induce mutagenesis in plant seeds to obtain beneficial mutations, breed high-yielding, high-quality crops resistant to aggressive conditions of rice, wheat, cotton, rapeseed, vegetables and other new varieties of cereals and vegetables. With the rise in modern living standards, the problem of food safety is becoming more and more serious. The use of nuclear technology to sterilize food and disinsect crops, suppress sprouts and maintain freshness can not only improve the sanitary and hygienic properties of food and extend the shelf life of canned food, but also cannot lead to additional radioactivity. Therefore, irradiated food is safe and reliable and can be safely eaten. Irradiation is used only for sterilization and does not adversely affect human growth, development and heredity. Irradiation processing also continues the old technology of preserving food by heating or freezing and is a new technology for processing food. In the field of environmental safety, radiation exposure is used to monitor and analyze air pollutants, water bodies and various environmental samples. Treatment of the atmosphere, wastewater and soil using irradiation technology is more effective than traditional treatment methods.