Automated detection of irradiated food with the comet assay.
Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to ionising radiation in order to disinfect, sanitise, sterilise and preserve food or to provide insect disinfestation. Irradiated food should be adequately labelled according to international and national guidelines. In many countries, there are furthermore restrictions to the product-specific maximal dose that can be administered. Therefore, there is a need for methods that allow detection of irradiated food, as well as for methods that provide a reliable dose estimate. In recent years, the comet assay was proposed as a simple, rapid and inexpensive method to fulfil these goals, but further research is required to explore the full potential of this method. In this paper we describe the use of an automated image analysing system to measure DNA comets which allow the discrimination between irradiated and non-irradiated food as well as the set-up of standard dose-response curves, and hence a sufficiently accurate dose estimation.