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Knoxville — Food safety concerns have led many people to stop eating medium-rare hamburgers, and cook them until they are well-done.

But a food scientist with the University of Tennessee said new irradiation technology makes hamburger much safer.

Dr. Curtis Melton said the irradiation kills bacteria on the surface of hamburger, and on the inside.

“Even though the meat has been sterilized, it can still be recontaminated once its sterilized package has been opened,” Melton said, “but it does lessen the danger of people getting sick.”

A few meatpacking plants in the United States offer meat irradiation. Melton said the procedure is very effective.

“The current irradiation process can kill 99.999 percent of the bacteria in the meat, which makes it as good as heat sterilization” of meat products, Melton said.

Melton said supplies of irradiated meat are small, which increases the price.