Do food items kept inside bags become radioactive when exposed to X-rays?

K. BALA

New Delhi

X-rays form a part of the electromagnetic spectrum which consist of gamma-rays, ultraviolet rays, visible light, infrared, microwaves and radio-waves. They differ in their energy.

All food stuffs (cereals, fruit, eggs, vegetables, dairy products, fish, meat, minerals etc) are made up of atoms of light elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen and heavier elements such as iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, sodium and potassium etc.

These elements consist of atoms. Atoms have a nucleus made up of neutrons and protons. These are bound together firmly.

We can make a non radioactive element radioactive by making changes in the nucleus. Normal X-rays do not have enough energy to make changes in the nucleus Food items kept inside bags will not become radioactive when exposed to x-rays.

Food Irradiation is a very useful process employed in preservation of food, control of sprouting of items such as potato and onion and control of food-borne diseases.

Irradiation destroys or inactivates organisms that cause spoilage thereby extending shelf life of certain foods.

One of the reasons for the unpopularity of food irradiation is the mistaken notion that irradiated food is radioactive.

Gamma rays from Cobalt 60, electron of 10 million electron volts or X-rays of 5 million electron volts are the only types of radiation approved for use in the process. These radiations do not have sufficient energy to make food radioactive.

No radioactivity is produced or released during the process.

Dr. K.S. PARTHASARATHY

Former Secretary, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board

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