The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of irradiation technology to control food-borne pathogens in iceberg lettuce and spinach.

"FDA concludes that irradiation of iceberg lettuce and spinach, conducted in accordance with good manufacturing practices, will reduce or eliminate bacterial populations," the agency said.

The agency has concluded that such practices present no threat to human health and will improve food safety in the produce sector. According to the FDA, low doses of radiation will kill various food-borne illnesses, including salmonella and listeria. 

"There is no reason to suspect a toxicological hazard due to consumption of an irradiated food," the FDA concluded.

The decision comes in the wake of a number of high-profile food safety scares and has been welcomed by the industry.

"This decision by FDA is a very significant step forward in helping to improve the safety of fresh produce. This technology is simply one more tool that industry will have at its disposal to provide consumers with safe food products," Grocery Manufacturers' Association chief science officer Robert Brackett said.

However, Brackett warned: "The adoption of this technology cannot in any way serve as a substitute for industry adherence to good agricultural and sanitary practices that are so essential to maintaining a safe food supply."