The Benign Hamburger
St. Olaf College
In this dilemma case study, the executives of a popular restaurant chain must decide whether to use irradiated meat, in this case, beef, to protect its customers from the bacteria, E. coli. Students learn about food irradiation and discuss issues related to food safety and the public’s acceptance of new food technologies. As developed, the case could be used in a variety of introductory science courses in chemistry, physics, biology, environmental science, and agricultural science.
- Introduce an application of nuclear science, addressing some of the myths of nuclear technology, and examining the societal, political, and economic issues surrounding the science of food irradiation.
- Teach some of the scientific principles of electromagnetic radiation, interaction of radiation and matter, and chemical bonding.
- Distinguish between atomic and nuclear energy scales.
- Research a topical and controversial subject.
- Learn to separate fact from opinion and valid information sources from editorials.
- Develop critical thinking skills and learn to support arguments and opinions with facts.
- Apply risk-benefit analysis principles.
KeywordsFood irradiation; electromagnetic radiation; chemical bonding; E. coli; bacteria; beef; meat; risk-benefit analysis
Topical AreasPolicy issues, Regulatory issues, Social issues
Educational LevelUndergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsDilemma/Decision
Subject HeadingsPhysics | Physical Chemistry | Food Science / Technology |
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