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FDA broadens irradiation use

By Joe Whitworth , 11-Dec-2012
Last updated the 11-Dec-2012 at 11:22 GMT

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded the use of irradiation to a maximum 4.5 kilogray (kGy) dose for a variety of meat products.

The treatment of refrigeration and unrefrigerated uncooked meat, meat byproducts and certain meat food products is aimed at reducing levels of foodborne pathogens and extending shelf life.

FDA amended the food additive regulations in the final rule published in the Federal Register at the end of November and comments are open until 31 December 2012.

The rule was in response to a petition filed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on 22 December 1999. 

Comments received

The watchdog said it had received several comments from Public Citizen (PC) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) requesting the denial of this and other food irradiation petitions.

It said many of the comments were related to the irradiation of molluscan shellfish.

Overall, the comments were of a general nature and not necessarily specific to the requests in the individual petitions, and did not contain any substantive information that could be used in a safety evaluation of irradiated meat.

“Because these comments do not raise issues specific to irradiated meat and meat byproducts…the Agency will not address these comments further here.”

FDA had reviewed the irradiation of meat and meat byproducts on 3 December 1997 and concluded that the irradiation is safe.

It added while all of the studies it reviewed were not of equal quality or rigor, it concluded that the quantity and breadth of testing and the number and significance of endpoints assessed would have identified any meaningful risk.

Poultry amendments

FDA also amended the food additive regulations to increase the maximum dose of radiation permitted in the treatment of poultry products to clarify the products covered and to remove the limitation that any packaging used during irradiation shall not exclude oxygen.

It changed the maximum absorbed dose from 3 kGY to 4.5 kGy for non-frozen products and 7.0 kGy for frozen products.

The watchdog determined that current levels does not eliminate relatively radiation-resistant spore-forming bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum and for added safety it proposed a limitation that packaging shall not exclude oxygen with respect to poultry as the pathogen does not grow in oxygenated environments.