An article in the Viewpoints section of March 22 featured three discussions of food irradiation to kill dangerous bacteria in meat. All three state that 99 to 99.9 percent of the bacteria are killed. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that the remaining 1 percent still represents billions of live bugs.
Thus, the only difference between eating irradiated versus unirradiated contaminated meat is how long it will take to get sick after eating it, since whatever live organisms we eat will divide in our intestines. As a result, illness due to contaminated irradiated meat will be harder to trace to its source to force a recall of the product.
The benefit of irradiation is to the food industry, in extending shelf life, and to public health officers, in showing that something is being done. The risks related to increased levels of carcinogens due to irradiation are entirely borne by the consumers. This does not seem equitable.
The only sure way to prevent food-borne illness is to cook all meat to "well done" and avoid contact of uncooked meat with other foods that will be consumed raw.
George L. Tritsch Buffalo