Jean Weese may have been ahead of her time.

An Extension food scientist with Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., Weese touted the benefits of irradiation even before the Food and Drug Administration in August approved its use on leafy greens and spinach.

"We’re one of the few countries that don’t allow massive amounts of food to be irradiated,” Weese said in a news release. “Other European countries also have been irradiating a wide range of food for years.”

She was one of several U.S. scientists who used laboratory research years ago to prove to federal regulators that irradiation could work well on leafy produce.

Weese and fellow Auburn researchers injected E.coli bacteria into the stems of lettuce and then irradiated it to destroy the bacteria.

She says the recent FDA decision opens the door for irradiation of other produce, starting with tomatoes and peppers.

Irradiation uses gamma rays to kill microorganisms without affecting produce quality. The process already is used on meat.

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