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High School Food Safety Lessons

Lesson 4 Irradiation Web Quest
National Health Education Standards
(grades 9-11) 1:1, 2:1, 4:3, 7:2
introduction
  1. Introduce this lesson: (modify if necessary)
    “Today we are going to discuss food irradiation. Irradiation is used to kill some of the food pathogens in the food you studied in the last lesson. High-energy electrons or gamma rays are passed through the food. This breaks the DNA in the bacteria and prevent the bacteria from replicating—this inactivates or kills the bacteria.”
  2. Question:
    “Does anyone know what irradiation has to do with NASA?” (In space, astronauts eat foods that have been treated with irradiation on earth.)
  3. Question:
    “Can anyone tell me how we know that the food we purchase in the grocery store has been irradiated?” (It must carry a sticker and the statement "treated with radiation.) Replicate sticker on the board (see Teacher Resource).
activity 1
  1. Distribute student handout Irradiation: Points of Controversy (found in Teacher Resource) to students. Give students five minutes to read.
  2. Discuss:
    “What is irradiation?” (Treating food with a measured dose of radiation to kill harmful substances.)
  3. Ask:
    “What are the advantages of irradiation?” (Irradiation reduces or eliminates pathogenic bacteria, insects, and parasites. It reduces spoilage and in certain fruits and vegetables, it inhibits sprouting, and delays the ripening process. It does not make food radioactive, compromise the nutritional quality, or noticeably change food taste, texture, or appearance as long as it is applied properly to a suitable product.)
  4. Discuss with students:
    “How do you know irradiation is safe?” (The Food and Drug Administration has evaluated irradiation safety for 40 years and found the process safe and effective for many foods.)
activity 2
  1. Share with students:
    “We are now going to view Module 3 of Dr. X and the Quest for Food Safety. Please watch carefully for Irradiation as a way of processing food. This is the subject of our lesson today. You will also hear a discussion of pasteurization, and ultra-high pressure treatment in this module.”
  2. Discuss with students:
    Follow the video presentation with a brief discussion about the issues presented and clarify any misconceptions students may have gained.
activity 3
  1. State:
    “Now I would like the class to divide into four or five expert groups. Each group will draw three cards from this bowl. On each card is a number. You are to become experts on the questions found on the Irradiation Web Quest that I am handing out. The numbers your group has chosen are the questions which each group will become experts. You will have ten minutes. You will share your expertise with the rest of the class. Be careful to complete the answers to your questions carefully. Write legibly please. These will be copied or posted so you will each have a compete set of answers.”

    On the board you will find a web site for reference.” (optional)
    (www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fdirrad.html.)
  2. Add:
    “ If you have time later, you can also refer to the other web sites I have placed on the board.” (optional)
activity 4
  1. Discuss with students:
    Hold a discussion with your students calling on each of the four or five groups to answer the three questions they have been researching. Make appropriate summary remarks at the end of each presentation, drawing on other students in addition to the team leader.
  2. Reinforce with students:
  • If you have taught lesson 3, be sure to draw parallels between this lesson and lesson 3. Especially reinforce for students that three harmful bacteria, E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Campylobacter can be reduced or controlled by irradiation.
  • Ask the teams to give you their papers, copy the four or five papers, and distribute a set to members of the class. As an alternative, post the papers.
Closure
Review the lesson by saying:
“This was a powerful lesson in food safety and how irradiation plays a role in reducing the incidence of foodborne illness that we covered in lesson three. Irradiation, as we have learned, destroys microorganisms by damaging the DNA in microbes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has evaluated irradiation safety for 40 years and found the process to be safe and effective for many foods.”
Integration ideas
  • Check Integration Ideas, Lesson 3, for many ideas on how students can share their knowledge.
  • Students can conduct a survey among family members, friends, and classmates to ask if they would eat irradiated food. A well-researched fact sheet on irradiation can then be given to the same population. This fact sheet needs to be reviewed by the health teacher. This activity can be followed by a repeat of the survey to determine if the fact sheet resulted in changes in attitude about consuming irradiated foods. This activity could be carried out in cooperation with the math department. Survey writing and analysis is a learned skill. (Final questions on the survey need to be checked by the health teacher.)
  • A helpful brochure can be developed on the topic of irradiation in cooperation with the health, English, and art departments. This brochure can be distributed to faculty, students, and parents. Seek the principal's cooperation early in the process.
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