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Food Preservation


The lethal effects of radiation on pathogens has been known for many years. Since the 1950s, research in the United States has been directed at the use of this technique for preserving certain kinds of food. The radiation used for food preservation is normally gamma radiation from radioactive isotopes or machine-generated x rays or electron beams. One of the first applications of radiation for food preservation was in the treatment of various kinds of herbs and spices, an application approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1983. In 1985, the FDA extended its approval to the use of radiation for the treatment of pork as a means of destroying the pathogens that cause trichinosis. Experts predict that the ease and efficiency of food preservation by means of radiation will develop considerably in the future.

That future is somewhat clouded, however, by fears expressed by some scientists and members of the general public about the dangers that irradiated foods may have for humans. In addition to a generalized concern about the possibilities of being exposed to additional levels of radiation in irradiated foods (not a possibility), critics have raised questions about the creation of new and possibly harmful compounds in food that has been exposed to radiation.



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Francis, Frederick. Wiley Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology. New York: Wiley, 1999.


Hwang, Deng Fwu. "Tetrodotoxin In Gastropods (Snails) Implicated In Food Poisoning." Journal of Food Protection 65, no. 8 (2002): 1341-1344.

"Preventing Food Poisoning." Professional Nurse 18, no. 4 (2002): 185-186.

Zurer, Pamela S. "Food Irradiation: A Technology at a Turning Point." Chemical & Engineering News (May 5, 1986): 46-56.

David E. Newton


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—A chemical compound that is added to foods to give them some desirable quality, such as preventing them from spoiling.


—A chemical compound that has the ability to prevent the oxidation of substances with which it is associated.


—A term used for various methods of preserving foods, most commonly by treating them with salt or sugar.


—The removal of water from a material.


—A chemical reaction in which sugars are converted to organic acids.


—The process by which some substance, such as a food, is exposed to some form of radiation, such as gamma rays or x rays.


—A chemical reaction in which oxygen reacts with some other substance.


—A method for treating milk and other liquids by heating them to a high enough temperature for a long enough period of time to kill or inactivate any pathogens present in the liquid.


—A diseasecausing microorganism such as a mold or a bacterium.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ferroelectric materials to Form and matterFood Preservation - Scientific Principles, Historical Methods Of Preservation, Thermal Processes, Packaging, Chemical Additives, Irradiation