KFDA asked to allow meat radiation

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KFDA asked to allow meat radiation

Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute has asked the Korea Food and Drug Administration to allow radiation sterilization of beef, pork, poultry products and seafood.

Currently, radiation is only permitted on 26 foods which include red pepper powder, gochujang (red pepper paste) and doenjang (bean paste) sauces and meals for hospital patients but not on meat products.

The institute made the same request in 2000 but it was rejected at that time as the state-run food and drug agency argued that the safety of radiation sterilization of meat is still uncertain.

The state-run atomic energy research institute argues that the safety of radiation sterilization has already been verified by international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There are also other benefits, institute officials said.

“When beef is preserved by refrigeration, it’s inedible five days later,” said Lee Ju-un, a researcher at the institute. “But if the beef gets radiation sterilization, we can still eat it even after 12 days.”

Lee explained that cooked meat cannot be used for making hams and sausages but there are no special measures to examine the bacteriological condition of fresh meat.

“Making hams and sausages after killing bacteria on meat by radiation is hygienic,” Lee said.

Twenty-six countries, including the United States, Japan, China and England, permit radiation sterilization of meat, Lee said.

But radiation sterilization faces stiff objections by food manufacturers and civic organizations. There’s a strong sentiment among Koreans who are reluctant to buy goods or food that has had been sterilized by radiation.

Hwang Seon-ok, a senior official at Consumers Korea, a non-governmental organization advocating consumer rights, said she’s against KAERI’s idea.

“It’s still unclear whether radiation-sterilized food could pose a negative impact on children,” Hwang said.

Park Seon-hui, an official at the food safety bureau at the KFDA, said the state-run food and drug administration needs to examine carefully KAERI’s research about allowing the radiation sterilization of meat.

“Based on research and data foreign countries have collected, I’m aware that it doesn’t exert a bad impact on humans,” Park said. “[The KFDA] will decide the matter after discussing it at meetings and symposiums with experts in this field.”

“Fresh food can be easily contaminated by various bacteria that cause food poisoning,” said, Kwon Joong-ho, a food engineering professor at Kyungpook National University. “Among the existing sterilization methods, radiation sterilization has the most advantages.”

By Park Tae-kyun, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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