This ultimate guide on food irradiation will help you to understand what is irradiation of food, application, pros and cons. It is a necessary part of food processing industries to extend shelf life of the food.

It helps farmers and traders to sell their produce for longer duration and reduce degradation. Hence from the point of food security and economy it is very necessary for everyone to understand the complete process.

What Is Food Irradiation?

Food irradiation is a preservation and processing technique with similar result to pasteurization. During this procedure food is exposed to dozes of ionizing radiation at low dozes. Irradiation at low dozes extends the shelf life and higher dozes kills the insects, moulds, bacteria, and other harmful organisms.

Application of radiation doze to a food depends on the resistance of microorganisms treated and the objectives of the treatment.

The maximum recommended doze of irradiation of food is 15 kGy( Kilo Grey) and the average doze is not exceeding 10 kGy.

Three sources of radiation are used for food irradiation, gamma rays, X-rays and electron beam. Radioactive forms of the element Cobalt 60 or Caesium 137 emits gamma rays. Electron beams are produced from an electron accelerator source on the food.


It can be applied for the following purposes:

A) Sterilization,

B) Radicidation (reduction of pathogens),

C) Radurization,

D) Disinfestation,

E) Controlling Ripening,

F) and Inhibition of Sprouting.

Food Irradiation Process

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Food is first packed in containers and then it is taken to shielded room with the help of conveyer belt. Then food is exposed to radiant energy source inside shielded room. The amount of radiation can vary according to the type of food.

The radiant waves passes through the food, where it breaks molecular structure of DNA of harmful micro-organisms. Due to radiation these organisms either die or become unable to reproduce. The food is then taken out from the shielded room.

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Is Food Irradiation Safe?

Considerable scientific research over the five decades indicates that food this process of food preservation is safe and effective. It provides an additional protection to food without significant change in taste, nutritional value, colour or texture.

Concerns addressed by joint FAO and WHO, Expert committee on wholesomeness of irradiated food concluded that average doze of 10 kGy does no toxicological hazard, no special nutritional and microbial problems in food.

However they also advised that irradiated food should be labelled. Because irradiated food should not be irradiated again as it can harm the food molecular and biological structure.

FDA has approved following foods that are safe for irradiation:

  1. Fresh Fruits
  2. Fresh Vegetables
  3. Poultry
  4. Crustaceans
  5. Pork
  6. Shellfish
  7. Spices and Seasonings
  8. Seeds for sprouting.

Food Irradiation Symbol

FDA currently stated that irradiated food should show the international symbol for irradiation called “Radura.” Furthermore it should also be labelled with a statement such as ‘treated with radiation’ or treated by radiation.’

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Radura Symbol


Radiation could adversely affect the nutritional quality of food. High energy radiation can break down the nutrients that destroys Vitamins and Minerals.

Radiation in irradiation processing units can be harmful for workers. Radiation can cause adverse effects on environment and ground water pollution.

Due to radiation, resistance in microorganism develops.

Radiation destroys spoiling bacteria but pathogenic bacteria are not destroyed completely.

Toxins producing bacteria are destroyed after they have contaminated the food.

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