Three different irradiation technologies exist, that use three different kinds of rays: gamma rays, electron beams and x-rays. Unlike chemical treatments, irradiation leaves no residue on the food and kills bacteria throughout the food, not just on the surface.
Food irradiation has been systematically evaluated by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the World Health Organization which concluded that treating raw meat and poultry with irradiation eliminates disease-causing bacteria commonly found such as E. coli and Salmonella and poses no toxicological hazards at typically used doses.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that known pathogens, most of which can be reduced or eliminated by irradiation treatment, cause 14 million illnesses, 60,000 hospitalizations, and 1,800 deaths each year in the United States, a country with one of the safest food supply systems in the world. Most spices sold wholesale in the United States are irradiated to eliminate the need for chemical fumigation.
As much as 25% of the world's food production is lost to insects, bacteria and rodents after harvesting. Irradiated potatoes, yams and onions can be stored for an extended period without refrigeration, which increases their availability in underdeveloped countries.