Back in the 1860s, a French scientist named Louis Pasteur came up with a radical, “newfangled” process by which the disease-producing microorganisms in a food could be destroyed by exposing the food to heat. Dubbed pasteurization, after Dr. Pasteur, the process marked a major breakthrough in the science of food safety. At the time, however, Dr. Pasteur’s discovery met with widespread fear and opposition. In fact, it wasn’t accepted as a vital public health measure until 1909, when the city of Chicago set forth the first U. S. law requiring pasteurization of milk.
Today, of course, few consumers even question the wisdom of drinking pasteurized milk. Still, according to many experts, new technologies such as irradiation have prompted a public outcry similar to the turn-of-the-century resistance to pasteuriza-tion.22 As public health organizations strive to feed a fast-growing world population while ensuring a safe food supply, debate about new ways of doing so is sure to heat up. The following sections explore some of the controversial food technologies under consideration as alternatives to help improve the safety of our food supply and to maintain the nutritional value of the foods available in the marketplace.