Irradiating food to prolong its shelf-life may have adverse effect on human health. Flavour, texture, and colour are changed. Vitamins A, C, E, and especially B are damaged by irradiation, rendering valuable foodstuffs useless. Genetic and reproductive irregularities have been observed in association with the consumption of irradiated food. Cancer-causing chemicals known as aflatoxins, created by fungi and occurring naturally in some foods, are produced more abundantly in irradiated food than is normal. The irradiation process itself produces in foods the chemicals called radiolytic products. Micro-organisms in the food may mutate into radiant-resistant strains. Spoiled irradiated meat does not smell putrid, thus eliminating a common warning signal for consumers.
Food may be irradiated twice further exacerbating these effects. For example, potatoes may be irradiated to prevent sprouting and thus prolong storage life, and then used in a prepared meal which is irradiated after packaging.
Irradiation uses gamma rays from a solid radioactive source to disrupt the DNA of, and thus to kill, bacteria, parasites, mold and fungus in and on agricultural products. The process has been known since 1921 when an American scientist discovered it could kill the Trichinella spiralis parasite which can contaminate pork. Commercial irradiators use metallic cesium-137 or cobalt-60 as sources of radiation. Both are waste products from the nuclear industry.