WASHINGTON, DC-Excel Corp., the second largest beef processor in the US, plans to ship irradiated beef to its food service customers in March. Treated beef will require labels with the international symbol of irradiation, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the meat is not radioactive. The irradiation process uses gamma rays, X-rays, or electron beams to eliminate E. coli and reduce the possibility of listeria, salmonella, and campylobacter in meat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), E. coli O157 infects over 73,000 people a year and causes about 600 deaths.
The FDA has previously allowed irradiation in poulty, fruits, vegetables, and spices. The new approval applies not only to beef but also to pork and lamb. The FDA is currently reviewing the use of irradiation in ready-to-eat meats, such as hot dogs and luncheon meats.