ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Food Irradiation : BARC's Sales Mission

Food Irradiation : BARC's Sales Mission

Difficult times demand desperate measures. The atomic energy department is trying its best to ‘sell’ a technology of questionable public value – irradiation for preservation of food. Early this week, BARC scientists donned unfamiliar garb – as consumer educators. At the Mumbai Press Club they attempted to garner support for irradiated foods from the press in a time-tested manner. Journalists were treated to ‘upma’ and other fare which had been treated with/made from irradiated ingredients. Top scientists of the BARC, who are known for keeping their distance from the press, undertook this gastronomic enterprise in what is evidently a desperate attempt to swing public opinion on irradiated foods.

Difficult times demand desperate measures. The atomic energy department is trying its best to 'sell' a technology of questionable public value – irradiation for preservation of food. Early this week, BARC scientists donned unfamiliar garb – as consumer educators. At the Mumbai Press Club they attempted to garner support for irradiated foods from the press in a time-tested manner. Journalists were treated to 'upma' and other fare which had been treated with/made from irradiated ingredients. Top scientists of the BARC, who are known for keeping their distance from the press, undertook this gastronomic enterprise in what is evidently a desperate attempt to swing public opinion on irradiated foods.

Neither the concept nor the technology is new. The first patent for using ionising radiation for food preservation was obtained in France in 1930. Some 20 years later England and other countries launched irradiation programmes, but not for public consumption items. European countries have been more ready to accept food so prepared – by 1988 a large number of western European countries had adopted irradiation programmes for preserving potatoes, onion and garlic and spices and, selectively, wheat, flour, cereals, fruits and meats. The US, on the other hand, has seen strong consumer disapproval mainly on grounds of doubtful long-term safety. In India food irradiation legislation has come up under the Food Adulteration Act, presumably because it is regarded as an additive. This was the case in the US and other countries too until 1976 when an FAO-WHO expert committee recommended that food irradiation be classified as a physical process.

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