The recent years have seen a great number of instances when ultraviolet (UV) radiation was used in the preservation process of all sorts of foods. Since the purine and pyrimidine bases of DNA and RNA absorb well the 254 nm radiation, its application with the use of a correct dosage can result in disinfections of various orders of magnitude. It can be particularly effective in cases where technology does not allow a more intensive heat treatment. When used properly, UV treatment can be a competitive procedure in the case of foodstuffs where the large surface area allows for UV rays to penetrate the entire volume of the substance. Incorrectly applied UV treatment may change the composition of foods. Free-radical as well as photochemical reactions can digest the proteins, damage the antioxidants, oxidize the lipids, make changes to the colour and substance, and produce undesirable flavourings and odorous substances. Some vitamins are particularly sensitive to UV irradiation in the course of which losses could reach even 50%. Photosensitive water-soluble vitamins are vitamin C, B12, B6, B2 and folic acid, while vitamins A, K and E are the fat soluble sensitive to light, carotene being the only provitamin with such properties. On the other hand, UV treatment can be a useful tool of food safety because of the photosensitivity of fungal toxins.
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