Can you eat food that has been x rayed? (Main uses)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question “Can you eat food that has been x rayed?”. We also will discuss how x-ray works and how it can be used for food safety

Can you eat food that has been x rayed?

Foods that are x-rayed are considered safe. There are no known dangers associated with the consumption of food, medicine or cosmetic products that have been subjected to safety testing on an X-ray bench.

Cabinetized X-ray systems typically exhibit radiation levels of 1 millirad or less. This dose is lower than the average annual radiation dose of 360 millirads. To put things in perspective, when food irradiation is used to preserve food or destroy bacteria and viruses, the minimum dose used is 30,000 rad. (1)

According to experts, the process of using ionizing radiation to treat food is called food irradiation and does not cause the food to become radioactive. The process involves exposing food to radiation from radioactive materials, X-rays, or cobalt isotopes. More importantly, this method helps ensure food safety without creating radioactivity. (2)

For what food irradiation is used for?

Food irradiation is a technology used to make food safer and last longer. It involves using radiation to kill harmful bacteria and insects. Just like paste­urizing milk or canning fruits and vegetables, food irradiation helps protect consumers by reducing the risk of illness from contaminated food.

Irradiation does not weaken the food, affect its nutritional value, or cause noticeable changes in taste, texture, or appearance. The changes caused by irradiation are so small that it is difficult to tell whether the food has been treated in this way. (3)

How is X-ray used for food irradiation?

X-ray irradiation is a new technique that offers the advantages of both gamma rays and electron beam irradiation methods. It is similar to gamma-ray irradiation in that it exposes food to high-energy photons that can penetrate deeply. But X-ray radiation uses a high-energy electron beam to produce photons allowing it to turn the radiation on and off. The device looks like a modified version of the X-ray machines used in hospitals. Although the device still needs protection, less protection is needed compared to gamma-ray exposure. The important thing is that this process does not involve the use of electronic devices or the production of products. (4)

Why Irradiate Food?

Irradiation is a technique that can help prevent foodborne­ illnesses. By using irradiation, it can effectively eliminate organisms such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella. It can be used to preserve food and make it last longer. This process helps eliminate or deactivate organisms that can cause spoilage­ and decomposition. By doing so, the shelf life­ of the food is extended.

Sterilization by irradiation can preserve food and make it safe for storage without re­frigeration. It is particularly valuable in hospitals, where it helps protect patients with we­akened immune syste­ms. Normally, foods are sterilized using irradiation, which involves higher treatment levels than what is typically acceptable for widespread use.

The process of irradiation can also be applied to prevent sprouting in certain crops, such as potatoes, and to extend the shelf life of fruits by slowing down their ripening process.

Irradiation can be used to control insects in tropical imported fruits. It helps eliminate insects both inside and outside the fruits, reducing the need for other pest-control practices that could potentially harm the fruit. (3)

What are the negative effects of irradiation?

When food is irradiate­d, it helps reduce non-pathoge­nic spoilage bacteria and exte­nds the shelf life. However, the number of spoilage­ bacteria remains higher than that of harmful bacte­ria.

This means that the usual signs of spoiled food still exist before it becomes unsafe to eat. While irradiation can sometimes affect the taste­ and quality of food, these effects are usually minimal, especially if manufacturers take steps to minimize the­m. There is also a possibility that irradiation may decrease the vitamin content in the treated food.

However, an average person would still consume more than enough nutrients, e­ven with irradiated food. It’s important to note that when used in approved conditions, irradiation has shown no negative effects on food, whether it be in terms of chemicals or bacte­ria. (4)

What are common irradiated foods?

Only a few types of irradiated food are available: spices, herbs, dry ve­getable seasonings, and ce­rtain fresh fruits, vegetable­s, and poultry. Unfortunately, there have been many objections to food irradiation over the last 50 years.

These objections are similar to the challenges that public health authorities faced in the past with other services meant to protect the public, like­ water chlorination, fluoridation, pasteurization, and vaccination. However, unlike their strong support for these­ other advancements, public health officials have not fully backed food irradiation. (2)


In this brief guide, we answered the question “Can you eat food that has been x-rayed?”. We also discussed how x-rays work and how they can be used for food safety. In my perspective as a food scientist food that has been x-rayed is perfectly safe to eat. X-rays can be used in a process called irradiation that can be used for food safety.

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Radiation-Emitting Products; Frequently Asked Questions on Cabinet X-ray Systems. FDA/CEDR. Food and Drug Administration Website. 2018.


ACHESON, David; STEELE, J. H. Food irradiation: a public health challenge for the 21st century. Clinical infectious diseases, v. 33, n. 3, p. 376-377, 2001.


Buy, Store & Serve Safe Food; Food Irradiation: What You Need to Know.  FDA/CEDR. Food and Drug Administration Website. 2022.


PREJEAN, Jonathan. Food Irradiation: Why Aren’t We Using It?. Harvard Law School. 2001.