Friday, September 19, 2008

Because the problem with irradiated beef is the smell...

Breaking news out of Iowa....

Iowa Ag News Headlines
New Beef Irradiation Process Improves Appearnce[sic], Odor

Iowa Ag Connection - 09/18/2008

An Iowa State University researcher has found that adding certain natural products to beef before irradiating it allows the meat to maintain a healthy, red appearance and inhibits odors that can result from the process.

Odors resulting from the process? There aren't any odors produced by the process, it's a harmless electron beam, right? If there were odors, wouldn't that would mean there were some sort of changes happening to the meat?

Dong Uk Ahn, animal science professor at Iowa State University, has worked for years to make irradiated beef more appealing."There are two major problems with irradiated meat," said Ahn. "One is color change. People buy meat on the basis of color. If they see that purple-red and bright-red color, they feel that it's fresher. If the color is brown or gray, no one is going to buy that meat. The other problem is odor."By adding an antioxidant and vitamin E -- both natural compounds found in living organisms -- to beef, Ahn was able to keep the meat's appealing color.

Sorry Dong, but I don't see 2 problems with irradiated meat, just one; that it's irradiated.

But the fact that you are adding chemicals to it in order to hide the fact that you've fundamentally changed the meat by irradiating it in the first place sure does give me the warm fuzzies.

Irradiating and storing the meat with those additives in oxygen-permeable bags or vinyl wraps allow irradiation odor to evaporate quickly while preventing color change and odor-causing lipid oxidation.

Irradiating meat is the process of passing meat through a high-intensity, non-radioactive electron beam to kill bacteria, such as e. coli, salmonella and listeria, that may cause the consumer to become ill. Ahn's method involves mixing in an antioxidant (ascorbic acid), and vitamin E (tocopherol) to the ground beef before irradiating it to allow oxygen to bind to the meat to retain the color. The color change and odor that comes from irradiating meat is due to the oxidation of lipids and pigments, and small changes in proteins in the meat. Ahn's process slows down oxidation and removes the unfamiliar odor from irradiated meat. (Emphasis mine)

Small changes in meat proteins, you say? Well, shucks, I guess if they're small they must be OK. But I do wonder why the odor is unfamiliar?

Ahn's research involves ground beef since that is the type of meat most likely to benefit from the treatment. Ahn found the best way to get his additive into the meat is by mixing his additives into the meat during or after grinding, but before the meat is pressed into patties. Ahn says irradiating beef has safety advantages for consumers and no loss of food value. "The process benefits those who need it most, people who may be susceptible to illness brought on by the bacteria -- children, the elderly and others. And the nutritional value of the meat is not affected," he said.Meat treated with irradiation is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and available at grocery stores or through companies by mail order. Currently, irradiated meat is mostly sold frozen. So, the rich, red color is less important to consumers than if they were buying fresh meat.Currently, Ahn's research cannot be used on meat available to consumers. Irradiation is considered an additive by the FDA. Meat cannot have more than one additive by regulation. Ahn is hoping the FDA changes irradiation's classification from an additive to a treatment, or approves the use of irradiation in processed meat, a petition that has been pending since 1999."Once that hurdle is gone, there will be a lot of people who will be interested in this technology and bringing it to the marketplace." Ahn said.

Alright, for the record let me state this - if you want to buy irradiated beef because you're immune system is weak, or you want a safer alternative for your child or gandparent - I do not have any problem with that. Would I feed it to my daughter? Hell no, but I don't want to limit your choices. I think grass fed beef from a farmer is safer, but to each their own.

And furthermore, while I do not consider the issue of saftey of irradiated beef to be resolved to my satisfaction, I know that many people much smarter than myself have signed off on it.

Others have not. According to Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago: "The government's assertion that irradiated food is safe for human consumption does not even pass the laugh test."

We just don't know all of the implications of this technology.

What I am very concerned about is irradiated foods becomeing a mainstream, rather than niche product. Already Omaha Steaks' ground beef is irradiated. Dairy Queen is serving it. It has already been introduced into school lunch programs. Thankfully, it didn't sell well, but that doesn't mean "Big Ag" is done pushing for it.

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