Food Irradiation Still Faces Hurdles

The 1991 opening of an irradiation plant in Mulberry, Florida, has sparked renewed interest in food irradiation. Unlike the 40 or so existing gamma-irradiation plants in the United States used to sterilize disposable medical supplies and for other industrial uses, the Florida irradiator is the first to specialize in treating food. In January 1992, Vindicator, Inc., shipped an initial 1,000 pints of irradiated strawberries to a Florida grocery store. Packaging the straw-- berries in a high carbon-dioxide atmosphere and irradiating them extended their shelf-life. According to the store owner, the strawberries maintained their fresh appearance and market quality for 22 days instead of the usual 3 to 5 days. The grocery store owner said most customers were indifferent about the irradiation treatment. Most purchased the strawberries labeled "Treated by Irradiation" when the nonirradiated strawberries were more expensive. He said a small number of shoppers refused to buy the irradiated strawberries, while an equal number praised the store for offering irradiated produce. That store, and two others in Ohio and Illinios, sold ir- radiated strawberries and other fruit and vegetables in 1992. As of 1991, 37 countries, including the United States, allow irradiation of specific foods. However, in only about 20 of these countries is food irradiated on a commercial basis— mostly to decontaminate small quantities of spices. Companies in a few countries also irradiate potatoes, onions, poultry, seafood, or grain. According to the American Spice Trade Association, less than 1 percent of U.S. spices are irradiated and used in processed foods. Irradiation has also been used to sterilize food for U.S. cancer patients and astronauts.

Issue Date:
Oct 10 1992
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Published in:
Food Review: The Magazine of Food Economics, Volume 15, Issue 3
Page range:

 Record created 2017-12-18, last modified 2018-01-22

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