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Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012

Irradiation of raw beef liver to be studied


The health ministry will set up a team to research the idea of irradiating raw beef liver to kill harmful bacteria, such as the O-157 strain of E. coli, officials said.

Beef liver was banned from menus nationwide last month over a spate of fatal food poisoning cases at restaurants.

The research team is expected to begin the study this year. The ministry will consider using radiation if it proves safe and effective.

Whether irradiation is actually a viable technique is uncertain because eating food exposed to "radiant heat" could stir public anxiety, experts said.

The ministry banned restaurants and retailers from serving raw beef liver from July 1 following several fatal and nonfatal food poisoning incidents involving the item last year. The ministry said the ban on raw liver was necessary because there are no effective safety measures — aside from thorough heating — to eradicate harmful bacteria from it.

The meat industry and some consumer groups have called for food irradiation to be studied. The health ministry said it will reconsider the measure if effective means are found in the future.

According to the World Health Organization, food irradiation does not pose a health risk. About 30 nations use the method to kill bacteria and insects in spices, cereal, fruit, fish and meat.

In Japan, irradiation is only permitted to inhibit the sprouting of potatoes.

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