Canada green-lights irradiation for ground beef

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Beef irradiation can be used to destroy harmful bacteria, such as E.coli
Beef irradiation can be used to destroy harmful bacteria, such as E.coli

Related tags: Ground beef, Food safety

Irradiated ground beef looks set to hit the shelves of supermarket stores after the Canadian government approved its sale.

Irradiation is a process of treating food – in this case, meat – using ionizing radiation to improve food safety by killing food poisoning bugs, reducing spoilage. The process uses electricity to create energy that destroys harmful bacteria, such as E.coli. The process does not involve radioactivity.

The government of Canada this week completed its review of the safety of irradiation in fresh, frozen and raw meat, concluding that irradiation was safe, effective and would not significantly impact the nutritional quality of meat.
T (CCA), which has been pushing for beef irradiation in Canada since 1998, welcomed the move.

“The CCA has long supported the principle that Canadians should be able to choose to purchase ground beef treated by irradiation, a scientifically proven and highly effective means to enhance food safety,”​ the organisation said in a statement.

Other products

Irradiated ground beef has been legal in the US since 2000, which also allows irradiation for a range of other food products, including pork, poultry, lettuce, spinach and prawns.

The food safety measure has the support of the Consumer Association of Canada. The CCA said cattle producers were strongly in favour of not pushing irradiated beef on to consumers, but letting them make informed choices, with labelling and education initiatives.

The regulatory changes were announced in the government-run Canada Gazette II.

Under new rules, a manufacturer that sells irradiated food must keep a set of records for a minimum of two years.

Records required

The records needed are:

  • the name of the foodstuff irradiated;
  • the irradiation purpose;
  • date of irradiation; the dose of ionising radiation that the food absorbed;
  • the type and source of ionising radiation;
  • and a statement on whether the food was subjected to prior irradiation.

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Related topics: Safety & Legislation, Canada, Beef

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