“Irradiated business”: how radiation processing extends the life of goods
We talk about the practice of radiation exposure of products – tea, sausages and other – to protect against germs and mold; we explain how this affects the health of consumers and the shelf life of goods
For more than half a century, products that have been exposed to radiation have been used in the world. But we know little about it.
The phrase “radiation exposure” usually causes panic among the townsfolk. But the professional use of technology comes to the aid of a person where microbes and bacteria can enter the body and lead to serious infectious diseases.
The technology of irradiation (irradiation technology) is becoming increasingly popular. In addition to customers – manufacturers of disposable medical products (syringes, medical underwear, bandages, cotton wool, slippers, masks, blood transfusion systems and so on), in second place are manufacturers of various spices and spices, teas, nuts, fruits. Dry seasonings, herbs, dry greens are used for the manufacture of convenience foods and as an additive to food. They are usually heavily contaminated with insects, molds and other pathogens and require additional cleaning to be fit for a long time. Thirdly, the technology is used to process materials in the automotive and construction industries for the purpose of modification. So new types of heaters, sound-absorbing materials, as well as heat-shrinkable cables, sealants are produced.
For processing products, a special installation is used – an elementary particle accelerator.
Installation works only when connected to electricity. It is able to generate a beam of electrons, which in itself is a strong ionizing radiation, harmful to humans. But it should not be confused with radioactive isotopes that are obtained in the nuclear industry – in a nuclear reactor (cobalt, cesium and other decay products of uranium). Such substances were released into the atmosphere after numerous atomic explosions on our planet and after the Chernobyl accident, they have a long half-life and can be harmful to humans through their effects.
The technology of the accelerator is completely different. But, of course, all the necessary safety measures have been taken: the installation is located in a special protective shelter – it is a reinforced concrete bunker. The radiation used does not cause activation (induced radioactivity) in the product. Neither food nor medical materials become radioactive after processing. The use of food purified by this technology is absolutely safe.
Electron beam processing of food is authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and FAO (Food Association Organization, World Food Safety Organization). Medical materials become sterile after processing. In order to prevent changes in the material, strict restrictions on radiation doses apply.
The dose of exposure is regulated by the radiation intensity and the speed at which the product passes under the beam. This is supervised by experts from an accredited laboratory. They empirically comprehensively study the parameters of the effect of radiation on the product. For example, for medical products it is necessary to achieve sterility according to the international standard ISO11137. For this, the effect can be 2–4 times stronger than on a food product. For food, you should only reduce the number of microorganisms so that they stop growing. But there is no task to completely kill them, to make the product sterile.
Paradoxical as it may seem, there are no alternative cleaning methods for spices. In all countries, radiation sterilization is permissible and recommended, no matter how people treat this treatment. We all grew up with the idea that spices and seasonings work in food as a preservative. Unfortunately, this is a big myth. They only mask the unpleasant smell of food, add piquancy to the taste. From childhood, everyone heard about the magical bactericidal properties of garlic and onions. But both garlic and onions suffer from certain diseases, they are susceptible to mold, after drying, they are attacked by microorganisms dangerous to humans.
In Russia, technological regulations on food product safety have long been introduced, where the possible “bioburden” on the product (the number and type of microorganisms contained) is strictly spelled out. If the threshold is exceeded, the product is considered unfit for consumption and can cause health problems: first of all, it is a gastrointestinal upset. In some cases, they can be fatal. More than 40 million cases of acute food poisoning are recorded annually in the world. Of course, there are much more unregistered cases. People go to the doctor only in severe forms, then this gets into the statistics. Mankind is constantly surrounded by food poisoning of varying severity.
According to the latest research by the Rospotrebnadzor of the tea market in the Russian Federation, a significant part of them is unacceptably infected with mold.