Banks, insurance companies and other institutional investors are starting to weigh the cost benefits of irradiating ground beef, poultry and other foods as part of their due diligence on loans to food processors, restaurant chains and food retailers, according to Dr. Mark R. McLellan, director of the Institute of Food Sciences & Engineering at Texas A&M University and president of the Institute of Food Technologists.

“The impetus is due to the 66 recalls for listeria or E. coli-contaminated beef, pork, and poultry in 2002, totaling approximately 60 million pounds of meat or nearly three times as much as in the prior year,” McLellan said.

Financial investors’ interest in food irradiation is a new development, as recent as the last six months, based on inquires received at the Institute of Food Sciences & Engineering. McLellan says that the 2002 recalls of 27 million pounds of product cost $81 million, not including litigation costs.

Calling irradiation a “pillar of public health,” McLellan said, “Just as there are few places today that still sell unpasteurized milk, the same will be true in a few years for raw ground beef.”