Irradiation is a process that blasts food with a low level of ionizing radiation. The process is intended to enhance food safety by reducing salmonella, E. coli and other dangerous bacteria.
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Health Canada announced the changes to Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations Wednesday.
The federal health agency announced last year it was seeking regulatory changes to allow the irradiation of ground beef; in June it launched a consultation with the public as well as industry stakeholders.
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Critics of irradiated food say it produces toxic compounds, like benzene or toluene, and reduces the nutritional value of food while also changing the taste of meat.
Officials say such concerns were taken into consideration.
“Health Canada developed the new regulations after conducting a thorough assessment, and concluded that irradiation is a safe and effective treatment to reduce harmful bacteria in ground beef.”
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Irradiation does not replace any current food safety standards, rather is “another tool to be used to maintain food safety,” the agency states.
The new regulations do not require that Canadian ground beef be irradiated, simply that it is allowed to be. Irradiated beef will be required to be labelled as such.
Irradiated food maintains its nutritional value, texture, taste and appearance, the release notes. The process is already used in Canada on a number of foods including potatoes, onions and flour.
The U.S. has permitted irradiation of beef since 1999, as do 60 other countries worldwide, the agency states.
— With a file from Andrew Russell