Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
April 2016
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:
and at 612.202.1016
The Sixth Annual Phytosanitary Conference at Chapman University was a tremendous success. In fact, it was the best food irradiation conference that I have attended since I became involved in the technology two decades ago. With over 100 attendees from 19 countries, this conference has become the top destination for anyone interested in irradiation of food. the excitement level expand rapidly. Much of the credit needs to go to Dr. Anuradha Prakash and her team at Chapman University. Their research on irradiation of produce and other foods has helped move food irradiation forward at a rapid pace. Anuradha has a keen interest in issues of food availability and security in developing countries and the incidence of hunger and malnutrition. Learn more about Dr. Prakash. All Power Point presentations given at the conference are now online. View presentations here

Featured Article: Chapman University Phytosanitary Irradiation Conference, March 23-24, 2016 at Orange, California.  

 Phytosanitary Irradiation Forum Attendees
The Sixth Annual Phytosanitary Irradiation Conference was held March 23-24 at Chapman University, Orange, California.   More than 100 attendees from 19 countries were present to hear presentations from an impressive group of irradiation and food marketing experts. Here are a few of the many highlights:
  • Phytosanitary irradiation is rapidly growing worldwide. Market access is the primary reason for the growth. Many countries want to import produce but they do want to import insect pests along with the produce.
  • Australia has a highly successful phytosanitary irradiation program and is exporting to New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the United States. Some irradiated produce has also been transported between Australian states to meet intra-state phytosanitary protocols. Over 2000 metric tonnes of irradiated Australian produce were marketed in 2014/15. Mangoes, tomatoes, capsicum, plums, lychees, and table grapes are being irradiated. The volume has increased steadily and is double what is was in 2011/12. Three fourths of irradiated produce is mango (1480 tonnes) with tomatoes in second place at 430 tonnes.
  • Irradiation in Mexico is moving at a steady pace with a 12 percent annual growth rate. Most exports go to the United States. A total of over 11,700 tonnes of irradiated produce were exported in 2015. Ninety percent of exports are guavas with manzano peppers, sweet limes and pomegranate also included on the list. Several of the largest grocery chains in the US carry irradiated Mexican produce. Consumer acceptance is excellent.
  • China is the world leader in food irradiation with 765,000 tonnes of food irradiated in 2012 (the most recent year with figures). The volume a year earlier was 540,000 tonnes. Estimates are that about 1,000,000 tonnes of food is irradiated in China. About half (400,000 MT) of the irradiated food are chicken feet followed by pet food, dehydrated vegetables, spice & seasoning, Chinese herbs, seafood (frozen and dry). There are about 140 Gamma irradiators in China with 60 to 70 percent of these used for food.
  • The USA has one of the most active markets for irradiated food with an estimated 50 million pounds of irradiated produce consumed annually. Hawaii irradiated 6500 tonnes (14.3 million pounds) in 2014. The US also irradiates about 15 million pounds of irradiated meat and seafood and 175,000 pounds of irradiated spices annually. Major retailers including Omaha Steaks, Wegmans and Schwans carry irradiated ground beef.  Wegmans has opened a chain of restaurants featuring irradiated ground beef as a menu item.
  • California-based Melissa's has a very active import program of irradiated produce. Imported irradiated products include Mexican and Australian mangoes, Vietnamese dragon fruit, starfruit, rambutan and mangosteen. Volumes are significant and growing rapidly.
The agenda and Power Point presentations can be viewed at . You can access the presentations by clicking on the title of the presentations in the agenda section. The conference was sponsored by Chapman University, USDA, and FAO/IAEA with financial support from MEVEX, Nordion,Dasheng Electron Accelerator Technology and Steritech. 
MYTH of the MONTH: "Irradiation can be used to make spoiled food marketable." By Russell Stein
"Irradiation can be used to make spoiled food marketable."  

This statement is incorrect.  Irradiation can be used to reduce micro-organisms and in some cases improve certain food qualities, but it cannot make bad food good.
Perishable foods are perishable.  There are different biological reasons for a food to decay over time. 

In perishable foods, spoilage bacteria, molds and yeasts will grow, and in time make the product unappetizing.  Irradiation can be used to significantly reduce, or even eliminate spoilage organisms.  So, the process can be used to slow down or delay spoilage in some foods. However, it will not reverse the spoilage process.  In general, it is advantageous to irradiate a food as soon as practical after harvesting. The sooner you retard the foods natural decay, the better the quality of the food.

In the case of foods that may contain pathogenic organisms, irradiation can be used to significantly reduce or eliminate the pathogens. However, if the food has already spoiled and contains a very high level of pathogens for a long period of time, it is possible that these organisms have already produced toxins.  Irradiation does not have a significant effect on these toxins.  So, in this specific case, it might be effective at killing the pathogen, but will not necessarily make spoiled food, safe.

Some spoilage is due to natural enzymes in the food.  Irradiation does not have an appreciable effect on enzymes.  Food can be irradiated at a very high dose to eliminate all spoilage and pathogenic organisms to make it "shelf stable" (no longer perishable); however, to do so also requires a separate process to inactivate the enzymes such as blanching (heating).  Some of the food consumed by astronauts is heated and then irradiated so that it doesn't spoil and is safe to eat for an indefinite period of time.

Foods, such as fruits and vegetables, decay as part of their natural life cycle.  In selected cases, irradiation can be used to slow down the ripening process.  In the case of potatoes, onions and other tubers, it can be used to inhibit the sprouting process.  For these, the irradiation can be used to extend their marketable life.  It will not reverse the process. Irradiation might delay the food's natural aging, but it won't make it any younger.
Rotten is rotten.  If you irradiate rotten food, you will end up with irradiated rotten food.
Link to article ... 

Russell Stein 
Inmune plans US$6.6M irradiation revamp for Peruvian exporters; Fresh Fruit Portal; (March 30, 2016): 

Irradiation facility will be a key element of Peru's efforts to expand exports and open world markets.

An Australian-owned company is upgrading Peru's irradiation infrastructure with the aim of certifying a Lima plant for U.S.-bound produce exports next year.
Inmune S.A. has operated with a mainly domestic focus since its inception in 1995, but because of its close proximity to the Port of Callao and Lima International Airport, Sydney-based ESA Accountants Pty Ltd eyed an opportunity and acquired the facility in 2014.

Executive president William Gal'lino told the investment plan followed three stages: an upgrade to the existing Santa Anita facility for US$800,000 and the construction of a twin Santa Anita II plant for US$2.8 million, as well as a US$3 million investment in an irradiation plant in northern Peru.

"The Santa Anita 1 plant has been operating for 21 years with three uninterrupted shifts in the city of Lima, which is the center of the country's economic activity with almost 10 million inhabitants; a third of Peru's population," Gal'lino said.

"In the first place, the plant requires being reorganized and implemented so that it adequately attends to the domestic market, and can be certified for 2017 to support agri-growers in their exports, mainly to the North American market.

"This certification would allow agri-exports to be irradiated on domestic territory instead of being irradiated in the state of Mississippi, which mean san excessive transport cost and prolongs the transit time of products."

The Santa Anita upgrade also involves modernizing and supplementing the existing system to expand capacity and diversify the operation to cater to different market segments and fresh produce. "The fresh products scheduled for irradiation for the domestic market are potatoes, beans, citrus and pineapples.

"Envisaged for irradiation for the export market are fresh asparagus, grapes, mangoes, avocados, mandarins, pomegranates, figs, peppers, blueberries, peas, cherimoyas, vegetables and products destined for the North American and European markets.

"Because of its connections in the Asia Pacific region, Inmune S.A. has been promoting the opening of this market for exporting irradiated fresh Peruvian products." As an example, the group and grower Agrícola Athos have been working on a pilot project to irradiate fresh pomegranates to be exported to Indonesia, which is likely to take place at the end of April.

Stage II, a Lima twin facility
Gal'lino said a new irradiation plant was planned for construction from 2018-20, right next to the existing Santa Anita facility and focused on a pallet operating system. Gal'lino said the option would give the perishables sector greater "versatility", servicing both the Lima Wholesale Market and export markets.
"In stage II, Inmune S.A. will be implemented with storage for processing, classification and cold storage chains," he said.

Stage III, the Northern Plant
Once the Lima projects build momentum, Inmune's plan is to build a new plant in northern Peru in 2020, an area which has seen significant growth in recent years in the fruit arena - particularly in mangoes and table grapes.
"Northern Peru has developed an attractive agro-industrial infrustructure with aggressive expansion plans that will make Peru one of the countries with the greatest potential for exporting agro-industrial and fresh products," Gal'lino said.
"A notable case is the production of export mangoes, which currently use a hydrothermal process for decontamination of fruit fly; this process does not favor the fruit as it changes relevant organoleptic characteristics.

"Peru registered an export volume of fresh products that exceeded 756,800 [metric] tons (MT) in 2015 via air from Lima. The northern region is the main supplier of these export products."

Inmune has kicked of technical and economic feasibility studies to determine which characteristics the Northern Plant would have, with the main objective to support the agricultural sector that supplies the domestic market and the fresh agri-export sector, as well as other industries that require gamma technology.

Peruvian opportunity to expand exports with irradiation; Fresh Fruit Portal; (March 18, 2016): 

As Peruvian pomegranate growers gear up for U.S. market access, what was once a very small player in the fruit industry will add yet another product to a portfolio that has made waves in grocery aisles with its mangoes, citrus fruit, grapes, avocados and blueberries, to name a few. At, we caught up with Agricola Athos vice president Jorge Checa to discuss the upcoming deal. 

Which markets does Peru export pomegranates to at the moment? 
Until recently Russia was the most important, but a 180° turn has happened with the crisis being experienced by the country. Today, the European market is the main market, while some exports have started into Asia and the Middle East. In view of that, the American market opening could not be more opportune.

And what are Peru's export volumes and expectations for the upcoming season?
In 2015, 17,000 metric tons (MT) were exported, and for 2016 there should be an increase of 40%. The 2016 season started recently and there is a lot of uncertainty due the weakness of the Russian market on the one hand, and the growing supply of product on the other. It is hoped that we'll be able to export to the United States toward the end of this season, and avoid the drastic reduction in prices that typically happens when the European seasonal fruit starts.

So do you think the U.S. entry would lead to an expansion of production, or would it cut exports to other countries?
The Peruvian industry for fresh products has shown itself to be very dynamic and there is already a significant area planted, so I estimate that markets can expand while maintaining export levels in the markets of Europe and Russia.

In this sense it is vitals that companies join [industry group] ProGranada to finance the efforts required for opening new markets, establishing quality standards, overseeing phytosanitary issues, projecting export volumes, and so on.

How much is forecast for export to the United States?
I estimate that in the medium term it would be 10,000-20,000 metric tons (MT). We have to see the reaction of the American market both in terms of export for direct consumption and for industrial use. A lot will depend on the installation in Peru over an irradiation plant that would give us greater flexibility for exporting directly to diverse points in the U.S., and not as it will initially be through Gulfport (Mississippi).

The industry has high hopes for the entry of an Australian company interested in developing irradiation. When do you think you'll be able to enter the U.S. market with pomegranates?

And how will that impact your sector do you think?
Remaining girded to the European market would have been complicated. The opening of the American market should give us space for opening other markets. However, it is essential that we become a trustworthy provider of quality fruit. That's no small challenge given how delicate the product is from a phytosanitary point of view. Finally, how has the El Niño phenomenon affected the Peruvian pomegranate crop? Not a lot, but perhaps we could say there's less flowering in some cases. It's diffiuclt to see, as there are a lot of growers who do not participate in the association to exchange experiences, and in many cases this is not a product of great importance for many companies.

India Mango exports to US to reach new high in 2016; NYOOZ (March 29, 2016):
India's mango exports predicted to reach new levels thanks to irradiation. 
Summary: Mango export to the United States is likely to touch a new high this year as the mango irradiation centre in Vashi, which is mandatory process for export of mangoes to the US, will become functional by April 15, 2016. However, with Vashi centre is ready, exporters and farmers are planning to increase the volume of export of the fruit to the US. The export then resumed and in 2009, a total 121 metric tonnes of mangoes was irradiated and exported from Lasalgaon irradiation centre. So far, Maharashtra had only one irradiation centre in Lasalgoan in Nashik. "We are getting good number of inquirers from farmers who want to export mangoes to the US," said Digamber Sable, assistant general manager at export facility centre, MSAMB in Vashi.
Mango export to the United States is likely to touch a new high this year as the mango irradiation centre in Vashi, which is mandatory process for export of mangoes to the US, will become functional by April 15, 2016. The Maharashtra state agriculture marketing board (MSAMB) has set the ambitious target of 400 metric tonnes of mango irradiation, after getting clearance from the US delegation, visited at Vashi facility irradiation centre on February 25. The centre has also received other required clearances. The agriculture department of US has set stringent norms for importing mangoes or any other fruits. In accordance with the US norms, irradiation of mangoes is mandatory before exporting them to the country. So far, Maharashtra had only one irradiation centre in Lasalgoan in Nashik.

However, with Vashi centre is ready, exporters and farmers are planning to increase the volume of export of the fruit to the US. Keeping growing inquirers, MSAMB has increased target of of mango export by 21% in the current year. "In 2015, the total irradiation of mangoes was 329 metric tonnes at Lasalgaon centre and now we have set a separate target for Vashi centre of 400 metric tonnes, a sharp rise of 21%," said Sushil Chavan, radiation safety officer at Vashi facility centre. Earlier, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) had in 2002 set up the irradiation centre - Krushak (Krushi Utpadan Sanrakshan Kendra) - in Lasalgaon, to irradiate agricultural commodities for preservation. The Krushak food irradiation facility commercially operated by the MSAMB as part of a tripartite agreement between BARC, Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology and the agricultural board. The US had banned of importing Indian mangoes about one-and-half decade ago over fears that pests would be imported through these mangoes.  
Link to article ...
Cherries and stonefruit in demand by Asia but access and quarantine issues plague the industry; Financial Review (March 23, 2016):

Exports of cherries were worth an estimated $73.97 million this season, Melissa Adams
by Emily Parkinson
Free Trade Agreements may have opened up lucrative export markets in Asia for producers of premium Australian produce but, for some, the rewards will have to wait.
Australian cherry and stonefruit exporters are enjoying red-hot demand in markets like China and
Korea but lengthy quarantine and access issues have taken some of the shine off the upside of recent FTA's.

Montague Fresh, one of the country's top three apple and stonefruit producers, is keen to start shipping peaches, plums and nectarines into its biggest market, China, but is still waiting on quarantine clearance:

Quarantine protocol missing
"We still can't ship product," says Rowan Little, general manager of business development at Montague. "We've done a really good job of getting the free trade agreement in place but, even though there are no tariffs, we still do not have a quarantine protocol so we cannot ship fruit there."
Horticulture Innovation Australia's chief executive, John Lloyd, says gaining access to new markets from a pests and diseases perspective can be one of the lengthiest hurdles in any FTA.

"It is all well and good having FTA's  - they are very, very welcome - but what does make an enormous difference is access to the market themselves," he says. "These are the things that take time and effort to overcome."

A bumper cherry season this year produced a record haul of cherries, says Simon Boughey, chief executive of Cherry Growers Australia - with some 5500 tonnes exported or more than double the harvest in the previous season.

But fortunes from the record crop have been mixed. Cherry growers on the Australian mainland, for instance, have been unable to enjoy in the spoils because biosecurity restrictions prevent them exporting fruit to FTA-backed countries like Korea and China. Instead, Tasmanian growers, who are the only producers with fruit-fly free status, and the only ones approved to fly produce to Korea and China, have had a virtual monopoly on shipments into those countries.That made the 2015-16 season a particularly lucrative one for Tasmanian growers.
$73.97 million return

Exports of cherries were worth an estimated $73.97 million this season, with Chinese buyers purchasing seven times as many cherries from Tasmania as the mainland, according to Cherry Growers Australia.

"The effect of the FTAs are fantastic - not just for cherry growers but for a number of horticultural crops," says Boughey, chief executive officer of Cherry Growers Australia. The Korean FTA introduced in December 2014 dropped the tariff on cherry exports from 24 per cent to zero, prompting a surge in exports from five tonnes to 250 tonnes in the first season the FTA took effect.

Mainland cherry growers like NSW cherry farmer Fiona Hall, who runs an orchard and packing business, BiteRiot in Orange, are keen to share in some of Tasmanian growers good fortune. "It's a waiting game," says Hall, of the quarantine approvals process.

Demand for cherries from middle-class Asian buyers is booming, she says. With FTAs now operational with Japan, Korea and China, consumers in those markets are eating more cherries than local markets can supply, even on a counter-seasonal basis. The only way to export mainland cherries to Korea and China is through a lengthy 20-day "cold treatment", which involves chilling the fruit to kill off pests like Queensland fruit fly, and either shipping or air-freighting.

Because the lengthy treatment can adversely affect quality and taste, local growers are constrained in what they can supply. "The Chinese market just soaks up whatever it can get. The Chinese are finding it hard to get enough suppliers, particularly larger, high-quality cherries, to service all that demand," she says.
If end-point treatments like irradiation were approved as a measure to combat fruit fly, Hall and other growers could air freight their fruit to China and Korea cutting out the long shipment times. Irradiation treatment is approved for exports into Indonesia, and the Cherry Association is hoping to gain approval for product into Vietnam and Thailand too.

"There is a lot of Chinese investment looking to partner, whether managing, buying or leasing, existing cherry growers in Australia," says Hall.

Chinese preference

Australian cherries are favoured by Chinese consumers for both their appearance and flavour and, like Australian mangoes and macadamias, are increasingly given as gifts as a sign of prosperity.
They are so in love with our Australian cherries it's actually very hard for them to get enough suppliers so what they are doing is actually just buying orchards. I know three cherry producers that have been bought by Chinese buyers in the last 12 months," she says.
China accounts for about 15 per cent of Australia's cherry exports but that could double should irradiation be approved as an end-point treatment, says Boughey.
"On our estimated figures this year if we actually had equal access to all the growing regions into all the markets we would have got to 700 tonnes of exports on the Mainland so we would have effectively doubled our exports."
Hall's farm packed 1200 tonnes of cherries last season, most of which was exported.  Plans to scale-up the orchard and packing facility are on hold, she says, until the access issue is cleared up. "If it happens," she says, "I see a huge boom ahead for the cherry industry. We've certainly got the market there. We've got the product. We just need the access. Once we get that, it'll be fantastic, like it is for Tasmania."
Tariff reductions, while always welcome, are only a small part of the benefit of FTAs, says HIA's John Lloyd, and sometimes of less consequence in a market for premium produce like Australia's. He explains: "There's not much difference in selling an orange in Shanghai at $5.50 and have it tariff-free for $5 - the tariff's not going to make a huge difference. That tariff does make a big difference to other commodities in agriculture but when you are selling a super-premium or a premium product, the tariffs themselves don't make an enormous difference."
 Increased dialogue

"The most important thing about an FTA is the dialogue opening up. With an FTA, you become a legitimate and valued partner as opposed to just another country knocking on the door. We've seen that already, where the FTA has been signed there's a different prioritisation of Australian applications for access, particularly in China."

FTAs are opening up new opportunities for growers across industries, particularly tree-nut producers, says Lloyd, where macadamia and almond farmers saw record exports last year. Exports of domestic tree nuts topped $1 billion for the first time in 2015, making them Australia's most lucrative single-category horticultural export.
 "Tree nuts is a big industry now in Australia and we believe it could well get to a two billion industry," says Mr. Lloyd of the tree-nut industry. "The next FTAs that look exciting from a horticultural perspective would be India and Indonesia."
 "Australia is a very, very efficient producer of high-quality, reliable and safe tree nuts  - particularly almonds, but also walnuts and pistachios - and in those countries where you have the Westernisation of the middle classes the demand for nuts is increasing because the healthy-eating message is getting through."
 "The nut industry is already in India and they have a big future there. Again, like China, it offers a burgeoning middle-class that didn't exist 20 years ago. With all their middle-class expectations and fears about health and nutrition means that they are good markets for Australian produce."
Bolivia/Russia agreement will establish Latin America's most advanced irradiation center; Global Construction Review (April 5, 2016):
Bolivian president Evo Morales with Rosatom representative.
The government of Bolivia has concluded a $300m deal with Rosatom, Russia's state-owned nuclear engineer, to build a research complex that will lay the technical basis for the country's future civil nuclear industry.
Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, told reporters that the centre would include a cyclotron for producing isotopes for use in radiotherapy, a gamma irradiation plant for crop preservation and a research reactor.
He said that at present, Bolivia was the only Latin American country that did not have a facility of this type, but now would have the "most modern and largest" in region. Completion of the work is expected in four years.
"This will be the most advanced centre in Latin America" - Luis Alberto Sanchez, Bolivian Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy
The agreements were signed by the Bolivian Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy, Luis Alberto Sanchez, and the director general of Rosatom and Russian former prime minister, Sergei Kirienko, and must be ratified by the legislature and government within a period of two weeks
According to Rosatom the centre will be equipped with "state-of-the-art equipment for researches within the framework of the national nuclear and research program of Bolivia".
Kirienko said: "Besides the construction of the centre and the research reactor, we will also provide training for future specialists, equip laboratories and arrange nuclear fuel supplies. This will be the most advanced centre in Latin America."
The construction will take place on a 15ha site at El Alto, outside La Paz. At 4,100m above sea level, this is the highest altitude that a nuclear facility has ever been built, according to Rosatom. 
Link to article ...
India's mango growers plan to increase export of mangoes to the US; Mumbai Nyooz;  (March 28, 2016):
Until a decade ago, Indian mangoes were banned for entry into the US. Thanks to irradiation hundreds of tones of Indian mangoes reach US consumers.
Summary: Succulent Indian mangoes take a circuitous route through the country's onion belt to head for the US. The major five importing countries of Indian mangoes are UAE, Bangladesh, UK, Saudi Arabia, and Nepal. Till a decade ago, Indian mangoes had been banned from the US market for a period of 17 years over fears that pests would be imported through these mangoes. Mango growers in the country are planning to increase the volume of export of their produce to the United States this year. Despite this, India exports only 43,000 MT mangoes, which accounts for 0.2 per cent of the total production.
Despite this, India exports only 43,000 MT mangoes, which accounts for 0.2 per cent of the total production. Despite this, India exports only 43,000 MT mangoes, which accounts for 0.2 per cent of the total production. Mango growers in the country are planning to increase the volume of export of their produce to the United States this year. Last year, India exported 271 metric tonnes of mangoes to the US.

Officials hope the figure will go up to 400 tonnes this year. Succulent Indian mangoes take a circuitous route through the country's onion belt to head for the US. A sprawling irradiation facility set up in Lasalgaon, located 240 km north of Mumbai and approved by the United States agriculture department, treats these mangoes before they are exported. Till a decade ago, Indian mangoes had been banned from the US market for a period of 17 years over fears that pests would be imported through these mangoes. It was only in March 2006 that the then US President George W Bush during his India visit signed an agreement allowing the import of Indian mangoes to that country. India cultivates mangoes on nearly 2.2 lakh hectares and has production in the range of 19.51 million tonnes. It accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the total mango production in the world.
Link to article ... is an excellent source of information on food irradiation.

Food Irradiation Update is published by Ronald F.  Eustice and sent to you through the sponsorship of GRAY*STAR, Inc., the manufacturer of the Genesis Irradiator.  
Food irradiation is a cold pasteurization process that will do for meats, produce, and other foods what thermal pasteurization did for milk decades ago.
Ronald F. Eustice, Consultant
Phone: 612.202.1016 





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