The Food Irradiation Processing Alliance actually served salad bowls of irradiated and non-irradiated spinach at the United Fresh Produce Association convention and people could not tell the difference.
There was actually a slight preference for the irradiated over the non-irradiated. Let’s put it this way; both were acceptable from a consumer standpoint.
1:08 p.m. Karst: How widespread is the use of irradiation the beef industry?
1:09 p.m. Eustice: About 15 million pounds of ground beef is irradiated annually. It is a small percent, but Schwan's and Omaha Steaks irradiate 100% of their ground beef and Wegmans in the Northeast also has offered irradiated ground beef and has for ten years.
It’s a small percent, but what we have got in the beef industry is not only E. coli 0157H7 but we have got five non-0157H7 serotypes that have suddenly appeared and they are as virulent as 0157H7 and we don’t’ have any other interventions that are as effective as irradiation.
A few more multi-million dollar lawsuits are going to make irradiation look like a very interesting alternative.
1:10 p.m. Karst: How expensive is irradiation?
1:11 pm. Eustice: It is not prohibitive, let’s put it that way. It is a whole lot less than a lawsuit. We are talking pennies a pound. Let’s say one of the big produce packers wanted to irradiate millions of pounds; I think they could negotiate a pretty darn good deal.
1:13 p.m. Karst: Do you see a time when irradiation is used for food safety purposes for produce?
1:14 p.m. Eustice: I believe it ought to be a routine practice for any food that is vulnerable to foodborne pathogens, whether it be ground beef or leafy green produce. I think we are at a point in this country that with the technology that we have, that it is unconscionable for us to market a product that we know likely contains a deadly pathogen and we have a tool that would prevent that foodborne illness from happening.