Methods to preserve our foods has been a problem of mankind since we settled into groups and began to store our foods to eat at later times.

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Methods to preserve our foods has been a problem of mankind since we settled into groups and began to store our foods to eat at later times. As we stored our food to eat later, mankind often came back to collect his food only to find that microbes, which are ever-present, had already eaten it.  Methods to preserve our foods has been a problem of mankind since we settled into groups and began to store our foods to eat at later times.

We know about expiration dates on foods and by now in the class, we understand that with microbes, it is a race between how fast one species grows against another. We eat the food before the microbes grow beyond a certain point (spoil the food with their waste by-products).

Some foods store for longer than others and depending on natural and some less than natural processes, we can extend the amount of time a food can be kept before microbes will take over and spoil the product. Keeping produce fresh for long periods of time has been a problem since one cannot treat fresh fruits and vegetables without altering the taste and texture.

A new and somewhat controversial method of food preservation, particularly produce, is gamma irradiation. This method uses high energy gamma radiation to treat food and has shown great promise in extending the shelf-life. Gamma irradiation is approved for use and does not show any ill effect on the produce itself.

Proponents of gamma irradiation claim that the method is safe, extends shelf life, and leaves no residue or otherwise dangerous chemicals on produce. Opponents argue the use of gamma irradiation is not safe, the facilities where produce is treated is not the proper place for this type of radiation to be released and exposure of the workers is likely.

Review Chapters 8 and 12 of your textbook on Microbial Metabolism and Modern Applications

Review these facts from the FDA on Food Irradiation

In this forum, choose a side; pro or con for gamma irradiated food. Choose to defend the use of gamma radiation as safe to use and safe to consume foods. OR, choose to oppose the use and consumption of foods treated in this manner.

Topic 1: Pro Gamma Irradiation of Food

Topic 2: Against Gamma Irradiation of Food

Address the following questions;

-Would you eat gamma-irradiated strawberries?

-Gamma-irradiation does extend the shelf-life but after some time, mold does begin to grow. Where does the mold come from?

-Was the mold already present on the strawberries and the growth slowed by the gamma irradiation?

-If gamma irradiation becomes the standard for processing produce, over time will the constant radiation exposure select for resistant strains of microbes that will eventually be able to grow despite gamma radiation? Why or why not?

-What about agricultural workers safety? Who is looking out for the women and men responsible for gamma irradiation of produce?


Student Response


I am against gamma irradiation for foods even if it prolongs the shelf life of the food. We have so many altered and genetically modified food in our grocery stores it seems like gamma irradiation is the next step for food to become less natural and more modified. While it slows down the process of spoiling it also makes the food less nutritious. It kills the bad bacteria but also damages the fruit or vegetable as a whole. It’s like putting hydrogen peroxide on a wound. You may think it’s doing a good job by killing all the bacteria in your wound but it’s also killing all the good bacteria helping to fight against infection. So no, I will not eat a gamma-irradiated strawberry. Mold can still be present in the food because the radiation only kills most of the bacteria. After a while, the bacteria that wasn’t killed begins to grow and causes the food to spoil and rot. Gamma irradiation is supposed to kill the bacteria so if mold had begun to grow it would just stop it in whatever stage it was in. In the long run, a lot of scientists fear that the more gamma irradiation is done that the bacteria will begin to morph. Just like superbugs that we talked about a few weeks ago. The more you try to stop something the more chances it has at evolving and becoming resistant to the irradiation. Another large concern is the workers. Prolonged studies will have to be done to see if overexposure caused any damage, but it seems like an easy fix to just not be exposed. There is a long history of people being exposed to things that “experts” said was not harmful and ended up giving them cancer. It seems like an easy fix to just eat our food fresh and if we can’t then find food that has a longer shelf life without modifying it.

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Consumers – Food Irradiation: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from


It’s good to look at both sides of this topic. Most of us have been consuming gamma irradiated foods and may not realize it. This type of food preservation technique has been in used widespread for more than fifty years. The good thing is that gamma irradiation is considered safe for the food it treats since it’s only the energy from the radiation that is treating the microbial growth and not the source of the radiation itself. For those who are proponents, they point out that it’s a cleaner-type of treatment for delicate produce since it’s likely been less-treated with other chemical inhibitors after gamma irradiation because it does not need further treatment.

Many are concerned about what’s on what they eat and are concerned that gamma radiation alters nutrient content (Maraei and Khaled, 2017). Presumably, gamma irradiated produce should be cleaner in terms of fewer pesticides. Would there be a way to test this to see if gamma irradiated produce has fewer chemicals than non-gamma irradiated produce?

Enjoy your day, Dr. Franklin


Maraei, Rabab and Elsawy, Khaled. (2017). Chemical Quality and Nutrient Composition of Strawberry Fruits Treated by Gamma Radiation.Journal of Radiation Research and Applied Sciences, Vol. 10, Iss. 1, 2017.

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