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Food Irradiation and Pasteurization - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Food Irradiation and Pasteurization

Most foodborne illness is caused by bacteria in your food. Irradiation and pasteurization kill the bacteria before you buy the food. Find out how it works and what products you can buy that have been irradiated or pasteurized.


Irradiation is one of an emerging family of "end point" pasteurization technologies, which can be used to eliminate potential disease-causing microbes from our food before it goes to the consumer.

Food irradiation, by applying radiant energy waves to food, is one way to increase the safety of the food we eat. It combats (or kills) potentially harmful germs in raw meat, including hamburger, and poultry. Food producers may also use it to slow ripening of fruits and vegetables, and to treat against insects in cereal and spices. It is also used to stop potatoes from sprouting.


Heat-treating milk and juice to kill germs is called pasteurization . Using heat to pasteurize milk was first suggested in the late 1800’s as a way to decrease the amount of a germ that causes tuberculosis. Today, pasteurization is still our main protection from germs carried in milk, cheese, and juice.

  • Raw (Unpasteurized) Milk
    Each year, people become ill from drinking raw milk and eating foods made from raw dairy products. Unlike most of the milk, cheese, and dairy products sold in the United States, raw milk and raw dairy products have not been heat treated or pasteurized to kill germs.

  • Fruit and vegetable Juice
    Most of the juices sold in the United States are processed (for example, "pasteurized") to kill harmful bacteria. But when fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed and left untreated, harmful bacteria from the inside or the outside of the produce can become a part of the finished product.

Updated Monday, 25-Nov-2019 15:39:17 CST