Canada considers irradiating ground beef

OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada is considering allowing the irradiation of raw ground beef in order to kill E. coli, salmonella and other dangerous bacteria, according to the health ministry.

The proposal will likely be announced in June, or at the latest by year's end, followed by a public consultation, spokesperson Maryse Durette told AFP.

The idea was first hatched in the late 1990s but was roundly rejected by consumers, and the regulatory process was never completed.

Microbiologists renewed their push to expand the technology in 2013 after the largest meat recall in Canadian history, linked to an Alberta meat packaging plant, which made 18 people across the country sick.

Currently, irradiated onions, potatoes, wheat, flour and spices and seasonings are approved for sale in Canada.

Irradiation exposes foods to rays that kill bacteria and other micro-organisms.

Critics say the process produces toxic compounds, such as benzene, and reduces the nutritional value of food, but proponents argue the effects on human health are negligible.

Any irradiated beef sold in Canada would need to be clearly labelled, said Health Canada.