OTTAWA, Ontario – Health Canada is moving forward on proposed rules that would allow processors to irradiate ground beef for food safety. The agency recently opened the proposal to public comment.

The agency determined that, after a thorough safety review, “ground beef treated with irradiation is safe to eat and retains its nutritional value, taste, texture and appearance.”

“Following the largest recall of beef products in Canadian history, the Independent Expert Advisory Panel that reviewed the 2012 XL Foods Inc. recall made several recommendations to strengthen the food safety system, including that the beef industry should submit a proposal to Health Canada to permit irradiation as an effective food safety intervention,” the agency explained in a statement. “Health Canada subsequently received a submission from industry and, following a scientific review of the submission, is proposing to authorize the irradiation of fresh and frozen raw ground beef to reduce the level of harmful bacteria.”

Health Canada added that irradiation is an optional tool to that can be used by the food industry to enhance food safety. Irradiation is not intended to replace current food safety practices such as safe handling, sanitation and storage, the agency said.

Under the proposed rules, ground beef that is irradiated must be clearly labeled and packages must display both a written description and the Radura symbol. Currently, Canada does allow irradiation of some products, including potatoes, onions, wheat, flour, whole wheat flour, whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasonings.

The technical summary of Health Canada’s safety evaluation of fresh and frozen raw ground beef that has been irradiated is available.