Policy Consideration 2

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The Federal Government and associated Regulatory Agencies should immediately prioritize developing 21st century rules and regulations, informed by the scientific community, to enable progress toward elimination of food-borne pathogens/pests, increase shelf life and inhibit sprouting and maturation, while increasing food safety.

The anti-microbial benefits of irradiating food have been known since the start of the twentieth century, when radiation sources themselves were first being discovered. The US Army research laboratories in Natick, Massachusetts, and the US Department of Agriculture laboratories have validated these findings. Limits on the amount of irradiation for various food-stuffs have been developed by the US Food and Drug Administration. As the world’s food supply is growing and more food enters the US from all over the world, there is a need to harness this safe and approved technology to protect the food supply and to enhance its quality. For decades, US astronauts have been consuming irradiated foods. Irradiated foods could become a substantial part of the rations for military personnel, especially given the ability of using irradiation to extend the shelf-life of foods. Without an effective pull, food irradiation, as the Executive Director of CIRRPC had discussed fifteen years ago, will remain a talking point, but not an implemented technology. In his final CIRRPC report of September 1995, Alvin Young (from OSTP and USDA), who had served as CIRRPC’s Executive Director for all of its eleven years of existence, inserted a closing section on food irradiation. Food irradiation has been shown to be safe and efficacious. The food safety requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration and of the US Department of Agriculture have, for the most part, been met. There still exist barriers to commercial acceptance for this process, which can eliminate food borne pathogens that cause waste, spoilage and harmful effects on humans, even, in some instances, leading to death. They involve a complex interaction between food producers and experts in food irradiation. Here only a coordinated stimulus or push at the Federal level will help bring about a desirable societal benefit, the elimination of food borne pathogens. What has proven to be good and wholesome for our astronauts (irradiated food) should also be beneficial for our children and families.