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Knoxville — Consumers may find something new on their grocery store shelves in the next few months — red meat labelled as “irradiated.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the marketing of red meat treated with energy rays to kill harmful bacteria.

But a food sciences specialist with the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service says consumers still should cook meat thoroughly to avoid the risk of contamination.

“This irradiation procedure is not something where a food or red meat could be stored at room temperature,” said Dr. Mike Davidson. “People would still have the same handling problems that they would have in the past.”

The irradiation procedure uses electron rays, instead of radioactive gamma rays or X-rays.

A Florida meat processor is expected to be the first to determine if the “Irradiated Beef” label has any effect on sales of its product.