The regulations that dictate how food is to be irradiated, as well as the food allowed to be irradiated, vary greatly from country to country.
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This treatment is used to preserve food, reduce the risk of food borne illness, prevent the spread of invasive pests, and delay or eliminate sprouting or ripening. The radiation can be emitted by a radioactive substance or generated electrically.
Irradiation is also used for non-food applications, such as medical devices.
Food irradiation is the process of exposing foodstuffs to ionizing radiation.
Ionizing radiation is energy that can be transmitted without direct contact to the source of the energy (radiation) capable of freeing electrons from their atomic bonds (ionization) in the targeted food.
This is most commonly done with rations for astronauts, and special diets for hospital patients.