Improved beef irradiation process maintaines sensory traits

by Editor
Friday, September 19, 2008

An Iowa State University scientist reported that adding natural antioxidants to beef before irradiating it maintains appealing colour and odour.

Dong Uk Ahn, animal science professor at Iowa State University, has worked for years to customise irradiated beef.

By adding an antioxidant and vitamin E – both natural compounds found in living organisms – to beef, Ahn was able to keep the meat's appealing colour. Irradiating and storing the meat with those additives in oxygen-permeable bags or vinyl wraps allow irradiation odour to evaporate quickly while preventing colour change and odour-causing lipid oxidation.

Irradiating meat is the process of passing meat through a high-intensity, non-radioactive electron beam to kill bacteria, such as e. coli, salmonella and listeria, that may cause the consumer to become ill.

Ahn's method involves mixing in an antioxidant (ascorbic acid), and vitamin E (tocopherol) to the ground beef before irradiating it to allow oxygen to bind to the meat to retain the colour. The color change and odor that comes from irradiating meat is due to the oxidation of lipids and pigments, and small changes in proteins in the meat.

Meat treated with irradiation is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and available at grocery stores or through companies by mail order.

Currently, Ahn's research cannot be used on meat available to consumers. Irradiation is considered an additive by the FDA. Meat cannot have more than one additive by regulation.