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ISU drops irradiation lab

By Staff | Apr 10, 2009

Properly packaged products, which have been irradiated, are repalletized and sent back to consumers in a very short time.

SIOUX CITY – Budget cuts are making major changes at Iowa State University. When Gov. Chet Culver announced last January that the state budget would be facing great reductions, ISU had to make cuts where it could.

As the fiscal year ends, June 30, the budge cuts will go into effect. One area impacted by this was the Linear Accelerator Facility, where food irradiation research was taking place.

“When I learned that the money would not be available for us,” said Denny Olson, director of the Linear Accelerator Facility and animal science professor, “I contacted Harlan Clemmons at SADEX in Sioux City.”

SADEX Corporation uses an electron beam irradiation, also known as “cold pasteurization” similar to what ISU uses.

Maintaining this research is important, Olson said. There are only two universities that do the research. Iowa State and Texas A&M. At ISU the focus of much of the research was on meat. A variety of horticulture studies were also underway.

With the June closing of the LAF, Olson said he is grateful that graduate studies can continue research projects, “without too much interruption” at SADEX, just a little over two hours from Ames.

SADEX President Harlan Clemmons is ready to work with ISU.

“They came to us asking if we could provide assistance for continuing research. We are just beginning to talk more about the research projects and look forward to working with their students.”

A part of the Siouxland community since 2005, SADEX’s number one mission is to eliminate food borne pathogens. Much of their work is with food, colostrums, serums, animal products, vet supplies, anything that is agriculture-related.

“A lot of what consumers use is already irradiated and they don’t realize it,” said Clemmons. “Almost all spices are, much of the imported fruit is, contact solutions and make up.”

Clemmons said irradiated foods are fed to people with a weakened immune systems such as cancer patients. The research found that it helps strengthen their immune system.

He added that irradiation has probably been researched more than anything else in the food supply.

He views irradiated food as one way to feed the world. A longer shelf life keeps food fresher for an extended period of time.

The first U.S. and British patents were issued for use of ionizing radiation to kill bacteria in foods in 1905. Since then it has been studied as a way to preserve food.

In 1980 the Joint Expert Committee on Food Irradiation that was established by the United Nations concluded that within limits “irradiation of foods introduces no special nutritional or microbiological problems.”

Clemmons added that “the e-beam that SADEX uses has several advantages over other food irradiation processes. It does not harm the product or consumer. There is no radioactive or negative environmental impact.”

Companies that want to protect their customers and their reputation seek out SADEX to ensure that the food is safe and free from food borne pathogens. Irradiation penetrates through the whole product not just killing germs on the surface, Clemmons noted.

Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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