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ISU food irradiation research to continue with Sioux City company

Iowa

Food irradiation research at Iowa State University will continue in partnership with a Sioux City company, as the campus makes plans to suspend the operations of its irradiation facility to address expected state budget cuts.

The decision, which will save $130,000 annually, was prompted by the likelihood of a significant reduction in state support to the university for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Dennis Olson, a professor of animal science who directs ISU's Linear Accelerator Facility, said ISU's food irradiation research has been ongoing for more than 15 years, and after July 1, future work will be accomplished in partnership with the Sadex Corporation in Sioux City, which operates a similar electron beam irradiation facility.

"We're looking forward to working with Sadex to continue to move forward on this important tool in the defense against microbes that cause human sickness," Olson said. "Making progress is critical, especially for those at high risk for foodborne illness, including immune-compromised people, young children and the elderly."

In 1993, Iowa State became the first university in the nation to build and operate a linear accelerator facility for conducting food irradiation research and demonstrations. The Linear Accelerator Facility has been one of only two commercial-sized irradiation facilities for food research and demonstration on a U.S. campus. The facility uses a high-voltage power supply to generate electrons, which are accelerated, bent and scanned over food products. Research has shown the technology to be highly effective in destroying foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli.

Since 1993, ISU has provided nearly 200 companies or groups with access to the technology for testing, training and demonstration. Besides ISU scientists, more than 30 researchers from other universities have used the facility. ISU irradiation research has been supported by many groups, including the Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Cattlemen's Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Since the 1920s, irradiation, or "cold pasteurization," has been used to preserve food and reduce harmful bacteria. The technology now is used in about 40 countries. In the United States, federal approvals came in the 1980s and 1990s for use on certain vegetables, fruits, spices and meat products. In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of irradiation on fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce.

Online resources regarding food safety and irradiation at Iowa State include:

--Progress reports on irradiation and many other research topics can be found in the 2009 Iowa State University Animal Industry Report, www.ans.iastate.edu/report/air/.

--A 2008 video demonstrating irradiation of vegetables can be viewed at www.public.iastate.edu/~nscentral/video/08/aug22.shtml.

--A summary of Iowa State food safety resources is available at www.ifss.iastate.edu/.

--ISU Extension's food safety website is www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety/.



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