Preventing Pathogenic Food Poisoning: Sanitation, Not Irradiation
The food and nuclear industries have capitalized on some outbreaks of pathogenic E. coli 0157 meat poisoning to mobilize public acceptance of large-scale food irradiation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows the use of high-level radiation to “treat” beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and spices, while US Department of Agriculture proposes the imminent irradiation of imported fruit and vegetables. Based on some striking changes in the chemistry of irradiated meat, the FDA’s 1980 Irradiated Food Committee explicitly warned that safety testing should be based on concentrated extracts of irradiated foods, rather than on whole foods, to maximize the concentration of radiolytic products. The focus of the irradiation and agribusiness industries is directed to the highly lucrative cleanup of contaminated food rather than to preventing contamination at its source. However, E. coli 0157 food poisoning can be largely prevented by long overdue improved sanitation. Pre-slaughter, post-knocking, and post-evisceration sanitation at meat packing plants is highly effective for reducing carcass contamination rates.