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Reaction to use of food irradiation on meat

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The recall of beef from Alberta's XL Foods expanded yet again Monday to include "a small portion" of beef in Hong Kong. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will begin a detailed tour of the facility Tuesday.

The XL Foods beef recall, the largest such recall in Canadian history, is bringing back the idea of irradiating meat with a cobalt 60 source.   

Food irradiation is used on dried spices and flour in Canada and is approved to stop sprouting in onions and potatoes.

But members of the CBC Community seemed uneasy with the idea of using it on meat.

  • "Terrible idea. Just what we need, more food that has been processed resulting in reduced nutrition. Perhaps companies should just be more careful when preparing our food rather than always go for the quick fix," said Gringostar.

  • "We need less tampering with food, not more. It shouldn't be such an enormous challenge to keep fecal matter separate from food, and if XL isn't up to that maybe they should remain closed," said superanne.

  • "Am I the only person who worries that irradiation will allow the food processing corporations to get even sloppier? Europeans are deeply health conscious and will not accept growth hormones or antibiotics in their foods. Do they accept irradiation?" asked Anne Peterson.

  • "Anne, yes, Europe accepts it. The Netherlands has had the biggest uptake, I think they irradiate around 20,000 metric tons of food annually. France and Belgium each do around 10,000 tons or something in that order. Germany -- of course not, but that is because they are simply anti-nuclear. They appear to prefer to let people die from E. coli in spinach than kill the E. coli using isotopes they disapprove of for silly ideological reasons. We shouldn't use them as an example," replied Doc Schmartin.

But even those who believed food irradiation is safe had reservations about using it on meat.

  • "For all it's worth, irradiating vegetables or meat is perfectly safe. The downfall is the cost element such as equipment, calibration, and specialized training. These additional costs will no doubt be passed on to the consumer," said Real solution.

  • "Irradiation seems like an idea worth investigating further. More inspectors won't necessarily help; these processing plants are so big, it's almost inevitable that some tainted meat will slip through at some point. Irradiation might catch those cases," said irkmaan.

  • "Not sure how meat inspectors do their job, though I suspect that they check random samples. Consequently it's possible that some contaminated meat slips through the inspection process. A meat production line using irradiation would sterilize all the meat," said Guthrum.

And this from SecondOpinion:

"Sometimes I think the level of scientific ignorance of Canadians is on par with that of repressive third-world regimes. As the story indicates, irradiation of food is perfectly safe and would avoid almost all the cases of salmonella, trichinosis and e-coli contamination that have haunted our food industry for at least the past century. Yet people with little or no scientific understanding hear the word 'radiation' and immediately want to have nothing to do with it.

"When the food leaves the radiation area it is like turning off a light -- there is no more radiation period. The uneducated don't believe this... according to their 'belief system,' radiation lingers, just like when you turn off a light the room will still be filled with light for days or years to come!"

Thanks, as always, for your feedback. Feel free to continue the debate and discussion in the comments section below.

Tags: Community, Community Reaction, food & drink

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