Radiation and Food

How radiation is used in the food industry

Radiation in Food

Irradiation of food is a technology for eliminating food-born pathogens, such as salmonella. Irradiation kill bacteria and other pathogens. If these pathogens are not killed, it could result in spoilage or food poisoning.

Food irradiation uses 3 types of radiation sources:
1. Cobalt-60 Gamma Source


 - up to 95% of its emitted energy is available for use

  - penetrates deeply

  - yields substantial uniformity of the dose in the food product

  - decays to non-radioactive nickel

  - considered to pose low risk to the environment.


  - cobalt-60 "pencils" require frequent replenishment

  - treatment of the food is relatively slow.

2. Electron Beam Generators


  - they can be turned on only as needed

  - they do not require replenishment of the source as does cobalt-60

  - there is no radioactive waste


  - shallow depth of penetration

  - e-beams must be converted to x-rays to penetrate large items such as carcasses

  - high electric power consumption

  - complexity, and potentially high maintenance

3. X-Ray Accelerators

Advantages: Uses high penetration, but share the other e-beam technology disadvantages.

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