Food Irradiation Updates
Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored by GRAY*STAR Inc.
Food Irradiation Update is
published monthly by Ronald F. Eustice, a food quality & safety
assurance consultant based in Tucson, Arizona. He can be reached at:
Dr. Richard Holley of the University of Manitoba has provided a
guest editorial which is this issue's Featured Article. Dr. Holley has
been a strong advocate of food irradiation as a food safety
intervention. During his tenure at the University of Manitoba he has
been witness to many food safety incidents in Canada and elsewhere. He
knows first hand the consequences of food borne illness outbreaks and
massive recalls on human health as well as business activity and
economic impact. Dr. Holley is not only highly knowledgeable but he is
also practical. His article is a "must read" and hopefully his words
will motivate the Canadian government to move forward with the necessary
approvals to strengthen the safety of the Canadian food supply.
FEATURED ARTICLE: Food irradiation adds cost but makes sense; By Richard Holley PhD, University of Manitoba, Canada.
was an "early adopter" of food irradiation, but its status in Canada has
remained unchanged for almost 50 years. This article explores reasons
for maintenance of the status quo and offers a glimpse of how
irradiation can be strategically used to improve the safety of food and
the health of Canadians.
If government food safety initiatives and
oversight are risk- and science-based in Canada, it is difficult to
understand how the current impasse in appraising the application for
extended use of food irradiation has occurred. On July 16, 2013, Health Canada granted "expedited status" for the evaluation of a petition from the Canadian Cattleman's Association
(CCA) to use low dose ionizing irradiation to eliminate E. coli O157:H7
from beef. There has been no meaningful progress to date, and no
apparent political will to change that. While the Consumer's Association
of Canada supports adoption of the proposal and is impatient with the
lack of progress, Health Canada is reluctant to move forward because of a
history of activist opposition to the extended use of food irradiation
to other foods beyond
its permitted use at 0.75 kilogray (kGy) for onions and potatoes, 1.5
kGy for grain and flour, and 10 kGy for spices and dried seasonings.
During debates in 1986 and again in 2002 when an initiative for expanded
use of food irradiation became a legislative proposal in Canada Gazette
Part I, focused opposition led by activists halted its adoption. While
the CCA petition seems to have been temporarily swept under the rug and
although it is hard to determine its status because of regulatory
opacity, it appears that there will be little regulatory action until
food irradiation is proven harmless to activists. It is uncertain how
activists might differ physiologically from the normal consumer;
however, it is clear that most are poorly qualified to design, conduct
or evaluate scientific work examining the effects of this process on
food (Note that issues associated with psychology and psychiatry are beyond the scope of this article).
scientific basis for the toxicological safety and nutritional adequacy
of food irradiated at doses of ≤ 10 kGy has been firmly established as a
result of the most extensive body of international research ever
accumulated for any food process.2 Doses sufficient for sterilization of
food with unaltered sensory characteristics (≤ 60 kGy) were similarly
considered acceptable and have been used to prepare food for NASA (and
Canadian) astronauts for > 40 years. Both Health Canada and the CFIA5
have taken positions in support of the use of irradiation to improve
the safety of food, but do not permit its use for that purpose in
Canada. The safety of irradiated foods has been endorsed by the United
States (U.S.) Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and is approved for
some food use in over 55 countries. Further, the CDC states that "food
irradiation is a logical next step to reducing the burden of foodborne
disease in the United States".
The greatest potential value from the use of ionizing irradiation to
enhance food safety is by treatment of uncooked foods of animal origin,
particularly poultry, where "good food" is naturally,
unavoidably and consistently contaminated with Campylobacter, Salmonella
and toxigenic E. coli (beef), in spite of the best application of good
hygienic practices and sanitation in abattoirs and packing plants. With
the proliferation of "zero tolerance" rules in North America for
pathogens in uncooked foods, the escalating waste and unnecessary cost
of recalled animal and plant-based foods because they are not
pathogen-free, the use of irradiation becomes an attractive solution. It
is ironic that delayed adoption in Canada of expanded animal and plant-
based food irradiation and adoption of "zero tolerance" rules have both
been driven by "consumer" pressure, which has been fostered by
perceived risk to the regulators themselves from the consequences of
making either a science-based or politically expedient decision in
response to the petition.
While the experimental evidence is very clear that irradiation of food does not produce compositional changes that are of toxicological significance to humans, the controversy continues, fueled by activists with agenda filled with suspicion of the food industry and regulatory agencies, while "good food" causes 11,000 Canadians to become ill each day, (2013), and kill an unrecorded number as a result of bacterial pathogens controllable by irradiation. Although I am reluctant to go as far as Farkas and Mohácsi-Farkas who suggested that those who provide misinformation about food irradiation are guilty of a form of "terrorism" because they contribute to delayed adoption of a technology that could prevent significant
morbidity and mortality, I am disappointed that the evidence to date in Canada shows that the responsible regulatory authority appears reluctant to use available science as the basis for rule making.
Link to Full Document...
Contact Dr. Richard Holley at email@example.com
MYTH of the MONTH: "E-Beam Irradiators are faster than Gamma Irradiators." By Russell Stein
"E-Beam Irradiators are faster than Gamma Irradiators."
statement is incorrect. Processing speed is based on the designed
production throughput for an irradiator independent of whether it is
E-Beam or Gamma.
is a fundamental difference of how the radiation is delivered between
e-beam irradiation and gamma irradiation. E-Beam irradiators
expose a relatively small mass of product for a relatively short period
of time. In contrast, gamma irradiators expose a relatively large mass
of product for a relatively long period of time. Typically, the "dose
rate" for electrons is much greater compared to that of gamma but the
amount of product exposed during irradiation is much greater in a gamma
irradiator than in an e-beam irradiator.
myth was created by only looking at the "dose rate" aspect of
productivity and not at the mass of the product being irradiated. For
example, using the same product/dose in an e-beam and gamma irradiator
of similar production throughput, one could say that the e-beam
irradiator irradiates a product in seconds whereas a gamma irradiator
takes minutes. This would support the myth.
was left out of the preceding example was that the e-beam irradiator
was only irradiating a box of product in seconds, whereas the gamma
irradiator was irradiating a pallet of product in minutes. This breaks
"speed" of an irradiator is really its production throughput whether it
is e-beam or gamma. Or, on average, how many pounds an hour the unit
can produce. Not how many seconds it takes one box to run through the
the real production rate of an irradiator (speed) is measured in (dose x
mass)/time. For example: kGy-kilograms/hour. Both e-beam and gamma
irradiators can be designed for any production rate. Like all processing
equipment, the design parameters are defined to meet market
conditions...fast enough to meet demand at the appropriate cost. Link to article...
|Also in the News: Rep. of South Africa kicks off Sharon fruit export campaign; (March 27, 2015):
The South African sharon fruit harvesting season has started with the
packing on 27 March of the first fruit at the Arisa packing facility in
Buffeljagsrivier in the Southern Cape.
Irradiated South African persimmons are entering the US. All
persimmons from South Africa must be irradiated. Currently, Gateway
America in Gulfport, Mississippi provides the irradiation service
persimmons destined for the US.
start of the season marks a period of increased job opportunities in
the orchards of the Southern Cape, as well as at Arisa and the returns
generated from export and sales to the local market are regarded as a
major boost for the region's rural communities.
quality of the 2015 fruit is reported to be excellent following good
growing conditions during the summer and Arisa expects to pack around
7,000 tonnes of the fruit.
from increasing market share in its main market of western Europe, the
South African industry is also looking towards taking advantage of
having gained access to the US market last year. Only a limited number
of containers were exported to the US in 2014 as shippers adjusted to
the rigorous import protocol imposed by the US authorities.
were very successful with those shipments and we look forward to
increasing shipments this year," said Sharon Fruit South Africa's
project manager, Pine Pienaar.
industry is also enjoying success in building its market share in
South Africa. In recent years special market development and capacity
building projects in the informal sector have exposed many more South
African consumers to what is normally regarded as a fairly new
project. "We extended our market
development programme to the Western Cape last year, after initially
launching it in Gauteng. This year we will also include the Durban
region," said Hein Smal of Mor International in South Africa (MISA).
Fruit was introduced into the South African fruit industry some 20
years ago by the Israeli company, Mor International, who commissioned
the first central packhouse and also invested in extensive plantings.
Since then the fruit has found a very special niche in fruit production
in South African - the only country in the Southern Hemisphere where
it is grown.
Southern Cape region has been specially selected because of it ideal
climate and growing conditions in order to supplement volumes grown
during the counter season in the Northern Hemisphere. "The excellent
climate of South Africa's south-western regions is just what sharon
fruit needs to deliver the best tasting fruit, bursting with juice and
flavor," said Pienaar.
a period of consolidation during the past few years when production
was focused on only the best climatic conditions of the Southern Cape,
the industry is ready for a new period of growth.
have a great deal of confidence in the future of the sharon fruit
business in South Africa," said Mor International executive Meir ben
Artzy. "Our investment in both the trade and consumer education
programmes in South Africa is proof of our commitment. With access into
new markets such as the US and the Far East there is much scope for
The new season continues till the middle of July. The first export containers are expected to leave Cape Town shortly.
NOTE: Persimmons from South Africa that are imported into the United
States must be irradiated. Currently they are being irradiated at
Gateway America in Mississippi.]
US opens door to Mexican figs; Fresh Plaza; (March 31, 2015):
Irradiation makes Mexican figs eligible for US impo
DC (March 30, 2015): Mexican fresh fig exporters are now able to ship
their fruit to the continental U.S., under the condition the produce is
treated with irradiation.
The figs may only be imported to the
continental U.S. in commercial consignments and must be irradiated with a
minimum absorption dose of 150Gy.
The organization said it had received
three comments by the end of the 60-day comment period, from an
exporter, an organization of state plant regulatory agencies, and a
state department of agriculture.
The pest list identified six quarantine
pests that were likely to follow the pathway of fresh figs imported from
Mexico into the continental U.S.: Anastrepha fraterculus, A.
ludens, A. serpentina, Ceratitis capitata, Maconellicoccus
hirsutus, and Nipaecoccus viridis.
Two commenters acknowledged that the
mitigation measures described in the RMD would likely be enough to
mitigate the risks of all six quarantine pests, but requested that figs
from Mexico not be distributed in Florida due to the risk of an
accidental or incidental introduction of quarantine pests into the
However, APHIS said the requirement for
the fruit to receive irradiation treatment provided effective
safeguards, and in addition each consignment would be subject to
inspection at the U.S. port of entry and must be found free of all
"We are confident that these requirements
will adequately mitigate the risks associated with the importation of
fresh figs from Mexico," the entity said.
One commenter asked what phytosanitary
measures would apply to figs exported from fruit fly-free areas of
Mexico and whether those treatments will negate the figs' organic
APHIS said that figs produced in fruit fly-free areas of Mexico
would be eligible for importation into the United States without
treatment for fruit flies, but the figs would be subject to the
labelling, certification, and safeguarding requirements and would have
to be inspected and found free of M. hirsutus and N. viridis.
Link to Article
Food Safety 101: Vibrio in Shellfish; By Ben Chapman; BarfBlog (April 9, 2015):
to a genus of Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacteria, and they are found
naturally in brackish and saltwater environments, as they need salt to
survive and grow. They also like to multiply in warm water, and the
majority of human cases happen in the summer months. Out of around a
dozen Vibrio species that cause disease in people, two species
- V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus- are most often
associated with eating raw or undercooked seafood, particularly
molluscan shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels, and cockles). These
bacteria can also enter through a wound or by ingesting seawater, but
these cases are less common.
V. parahaemolyticus usually
causes watery diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, sometimes with a
fever and chills. People are usually sick for three days, and though
unpleasant, the majority of people recover just fine, without needing
prescription medications. The CDC estimates there are 35,000 V. parahaemolyticus cases a year in the United States.
V. vulnificus is
a rarer but more sinister creature, and is often associated with
fatalities. Most people with V. vulnificus experience symptoms
similar to V. parahaemolyticus, but the bacteria are a particular
threat to those who are immunocompromised or have underlying health
conditions such as liver disease, diabetes, or cancer. In these
patients, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream (septicemia), causing
severe fever, skin lesions, and shock. Around 50 percent of these
patients die, and that is often in the face of aggressive antibiotic
treatment and supportive care, which is more than a little
scary. V. vulnificus infection is, however, a rare disease; there are only about 30 cases a year in the United States.
incubation periods (the time between eating the contaminated shellfish
and becoming sick) are quite different for the two bacteria. V. parahaemolyticus starts making itself known around two to 48 hours after exposure, while V. vulnificus takes
one to seven days. A clinical diagnosis using bacterial culture is
still needed to be sure Vibrio is the culprit, in large part
because symptoms like nausea and vomiting, and even the more severe
septicemia, can be caused by a wide variety of microbes.
Unfortunately, Vibrio cases have been on the rise, and according to the CDC's most recent Food Safety Progress Report, we saw a 75 percent increase in
cases in 2013 compared to 2006-2008, and a 32 percent increase
compared to 2010-2012 in the United States. The majority of these
2013 cases (62 percent, or 144 cases) were V. parahaemolyticus,
and 9 percent (21 cases) were V. vulnificus. It is also believed
that for every V. parahaemolyticus case that is reported,
there are 142 cases that go undiagnosed. This is probably due to an
underreporting of cases, as many laboratories do not use the special
culture media needed to grow the bacteria. To improve our understanding
of the impacts these bacteria, Vibrio infections were made a
notifiable disease in 2007, which means that lab-confirmed cases have
to be reported to the state health departments, which then inform the
CDC. Unfortunately, we know considerably less about the significance
of Vibrio infections in other parts of the world.
Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Norovirus Collaborative for Outreach, Research & Education, North Carolina State University
For the love of the food, oyster aficionados have created some interesting myths on
how to reduce their risk of disease from eating raw oysters, such as
the notion that covering the oysters in hot sauce will kill bacteria.
The old adage about only eating oysters in months containing an "R" has
been around since the 1500's, and while the V. vulnificus levels
in water are higher in the summer months, the CDC says that 40 percent
of cases actually occur in the R-containing months between September and
April. Similarly, some people think they can tell when an oyster is not
safe to eat, but Vibrio bacteria do not change the taste,
smell, or appearance of shellfish.
the bacteria are quite susceptible to heat. People can reduce
their risk of infection by ordering cooked oysters when they go to
restaurants, or when preparing oysters at home, to follow a few simple
precautions, which are outlined at Foodsafety.gov.
2014. Notes from the Field: Increase in Vibrio parahaemolyticus
Infections Associated with Consumption of Atlantic Coast Shellfish -
2013. MMWR 63(15): p. 335-336. Accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6315a6.htm?s_cid=mm6315a6_x
2014. Incidence and Trends of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted
Commonly Through Food - Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network,
10 U.S. Sites, 2006-2013. MMWR 63(15): 328 - 332. Accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6315a3.htm?s_cid=mm6315a3_w
CDC. 2015. Vibrio illness (Vibriosis). Accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/vibrio/
FDA. 2014. Raw Oyster Myths. Accessed at http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/HealthEducators/ucm085385.htm
Foodsafety.gov. 2015. Vibrio infections. Accessed at http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/vibrio_infections/
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The
author is apparently not aware of the fact that live oysters can be
irradiated to eliminate the risks of vibrio...and are still alive.
Currently Gulf Oysters are being irradiated in Mississippi by Gateway America.]
|foodirradiation.org is an excellent source of information on food irradiation.
irradiation is a cold pasteurization process that will do for meats,
produce, and other foods what thermal pasteurization did for milk
Ronald F. Eustice, Consultant