What is food irradiation?
Food irradiation exposes food to a burst of high energy radiation from one of three sources: gamma rays, electron beams, or X-rays.
It is used to kill bacteria, extend shelf-life, and prevent sprouting, but critics charge that it creates toxic chemical byproducts and degrades food quality.
Foods approved for irradiation in the U.S.
1986: Spices, herbs, herb teas, pork, wheat, wheat flour, fruits and vegetables
1999: Refrigerated or frozen raw beef, pork, lamb and poultry
August 1999: An industry coalition asked the FDA to allow irradiation of seeds, sprouts, fresh juices, frozen food, prepared fresh fruits and vegetables, and lunch meats. The FDA still has not yet decided as of 2008.
2000: Eggs in the shell, seeds for sprouting (like alfalfa)
2004: Meat purchased by the National School Lunch Program
2005: Fresh or frozen shellfish
2008: Spinach and iceberg lettuce