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FDA Allows Irradiation in Crustaceans for Foodborne Pathogen Control

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will allow irradiation on crab, shrimp, lobster, crayfish and prawns to control foodborne pathogens and extend shelf life.

After a safety assessment considered potential toxicity, the effect of irradiation on nutrients, and potential microbiological risk, the agency decided to amend current food additive regulations to allow “the safe use of ionizing radiation on crustaceans.”

The change applies to raw, frozen, cooked, partially cooked, shelled, or dried crustaceans, or cooked, or ready-to-cook, crustaceans processed with spices or small amounts of other food ingredients.

At the maximum permitted dose of 6.0 kiloGray (kGy), this new use of ionizing radiation will reduce, but not entirely eliminate, the number of pathogenic microorganisms – including Listeria, Vibrio and E. coli – in or on crustaceans.

“Irradiation is not a substitute for proper food-handling practices,” FDA pointed out. “Crustaceans treated with ionizing radiation must be stored, handled, and cooked in the same way as non-irradiated foods.”

But Food & Water Watch’s executive director, Wenonah Hauter, said that the decision “continues to show how inadequate the FDA food inspection system is, especially for imported foods” and will allow other countries “to continue to raise their seafood products in filthy and unsanitary factory fish farms since irradiation will be used as the ‘magic bullet’ to make the products safe to eat from microbiological contaminants.”

FDA has previously allowed irradiation in other foods such as poultry, meat, molluscan shellfish, iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach. The move to add crustaceans to the list is in response to a petition filed by the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) 13 years ago.

“Ionizing radiation is a proven and effective food safety technology that can now be incorporated into an already robust modern system that ensures the wholesomeness of crustaceans,” said Gavin Gibbons, NFI’s vice president for communications. “This will be another tool, in addition to existing government regulations, that companies can use to ensure the safety of their seafood. FDA has made clear that use of irradiating technology will supplement, not replace, stringent food safety standards that have led seafood to be among the safest of foods.”

The agency requires that companies identify irradiated foods on packaging, but not on multi-ingredient foods or irradiated food served in restaurants.

© Food Safety News
  • anthony samsel

    The FDA has become a coin operated automoton. The use of ionizing radiation will no doubt cause genetic mutations in the Listeria, Vibrio, E. coli and other species which are not destroyed in the process. What will be the result and effects on our biology of these new mutant species ? What are the effects of the possible altered proteins of the seafood itself to our biology ? The Russians banned the use of microwave ovens ……
    I’ve observed this radical ionizing technology since the mid 1970s when it was first used on clams at the reactor at the University of MA (Lowell) by friend and colleague Dr. Jack Mallett before he retired. I was against it then and I’m against this practice now.

  • MaryFinelli

    “’Ionizing radiation is a proven and effective food safety technology that can now be incorporated into an already robust modern system that ensures the wholesomeness of crustaceans,’ said Gavin Gibbons, NFI’s vice president for communications.”
    If the current system really was robust there would be no reason to resort to irradiation.
    When animals are raised in filthy, pathogen-breeding conditions, disease from food made from them is inevitable, and such ridiculous and hazardous measures as irradiation are resorted to out of sheer desperation. As noted in the article, it still won’t make it safe.

    • Kathryn

      I agree with what you said. It’s unfortunate the FDA needs to resort to irradiation to keep food safe.

      you mentioned that the food will still be unsafe after treatment. I think the reason they mention this is because irradiation does not negate the need for hygienic food handling and acceptable cooking methods. Irradiation is not a substitute for cooking to the proper internal temperature for shellfish, and customers should be aware that if handled improperly, shellfish can still cause foodborne illness, just like raw chicken will always pose a threat…

  • Oginikwe

    It doesn’t really matter what they do to it, you’re still eating pig manure and antibiotics. We’re supposed to celebrate getting rid of one out of three bad things?

    Today’s Seafood Special: Pig Manure, Antibiotics, and Diarrhea Bugs (Mother Jones) 1/23/2013: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/imported-seafood-shrimp-fda

  • farmber

    That’s right, FDA — mask the problems caused by industrialized food production by zapping the symptoms. But its sad and outrageous how our food becomes no safer…

  • DCDawg913

    It’s about time! Unfortunately, the “pure food” activists will continue to denounce anything other than organic as being good enough for the citizens of the world, despite the fact that the citizens of the developed world, who eat GMO-, pesticide-, bacteria-, viral-, name your toxin- laden food (according to the purists) happen to have much longer life spans than those in the developing world who rely on subsistence farming, if they’re lucky enough to have land, to survive. The fact is, we live in an industrialized, urbanized society (in the US and much of the developed world), with fewer and fewer young people willing to take the risks involved in farming, and finding better opportunities in cities; therefore, our food production systems have moved to consolidation and large scale production to offset the inherent risks of farming. If you don’t like it, become a farmer and raise your own food, but be willing to take the risk and don’t beg me and my fellow non-paranoid taxpayers to bail you out when there is a drought or a disease that wipes out your crops…