The recent fatal anthrax attacks that have struck in the United States appear to be increasing public support for the irradiation of food, a Rooster News Network story reports. With the technology now being used to eliminate anthrax spores in contaminated mail, the concept is getting more attention for use in safeguarding food.
Earlier this month, a telephone survey of 1008 adults conducted by research firm Porter Novelli found that 52 per cent of consumers said the government should require irradiation to ensure a safe food supply. This contrasts starkly with a similar survey carried out last year, when only 11 per cent of consumers said they would buy irradiated foods if available. About two thirds (64 per cent) of the consumers who took part in the survey expressed concern about the contamination of the U.S. food supply with anthrax or other biological agents.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that food irradiation is safe and effective in decreasing or eliminating harmful bacteria and has approved irradiation of a variety of foods, including meat, poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables, and spices. The process requires exposing food products to ionising energy for a specified length of time.
"Irradiation has the ability to make food safer by destroying harmful microorganisms that can cause food to spoil and cause illness," says Michael Osterholm of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "Its use can help reduce or eliminate health threats from such pathogens as salmonella, campylobacter, e.coli 0157:H7 and even anthrax."