Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
April 2018
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 
Estimates are that world population will be over nine billion by the year 2050. World population is currently growing by approximately 83 million people each year. Most of the population growth is and will continue to occur in Africa and Asia. More food will have to be produced on less land while input costs such as fuel and fertilizer will continue to sky rocket.

The Green Revolution of the 1950s and 60s turned importing countries into exporters. It's time to expand the use of food irradiation to prevent harvest losses, extend food shelf life and eliminate deadly bacteria. The road map is in place; are we ready to follow the lead of the visionary leaders who have taken us this far?

IN THIS ISSUE
Featured Article: A Quiet Revolution Is Changing The World; By Ronald F. Eustice 
THE QUIET REVOLUTION THAT IS CHANGING THE WORLD
By Ronald F. Eustice
The term "Green Revolution" refers to the renovation of agricultural practices beginning in Mexico in the 1940s. Because of its success in producing more agricultural products there, Green Revolution technologies spread worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s, significantly increasing the amount of calories produced per acre of agriculture.
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History and Development of the Green Revolution
T he success of the Green Revolution are often attributed to Dr. Norman Borlaug, an Iowa farm boy educated at the University of Minnesota. For his work, Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the 1940s, Borlaug began conducting research in Mexico and developed new disease resistance high-yield varieties of wheat. By combining Borlaug's wheat varieties with new mechanized agricultural technologies, Mexico was able to produce more wheat than was needed by its own citizens, leading to its becoming an exporter of wheat by the 1960s. Prior to the use of these varieties, the country was importing almost half of its wheat supply.

Due to the success of the Green Revolution in Mexico, its technologies spread worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s. The United States for instance, imported about half of its wheat in the 1940s but after using Green Revolution technologies, it became self-sufficient in the 1950s and became an exporter by the 1960s.
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The Green Revolution began quietly in northwestern Mexico. Very few were aware of the success that was occurring. Some were critical of Borlaug's efforts. The final result was that the Green Revolution changed food production for the entire world.

Another Food Producing Revolution is Quietly Progressing:
There is another quiet revolution in process. Most are unaware of what is happening, but irradiation of food is also dramatically changing the world. In 2000, irradiated ground beef became available in Minnesota. There was some media coverage but Minnesotans tend not to "toot their own horns." 

The irradiation of food is quietly expanding and gaining widespread acceptance. We don't read much about the technology in newspapers or see reports of its use on television, but progress is steady and significant. 
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The original focus for irradiation was to eliminate E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef. Several companies including Schwan's, Omaha Steaks, Wegmans and others have used irradiation for 18 years. They are convinced of its value and are using irradiation as a value-added process.

Recently the focus has shifted to irradiation for phytosanitary purposes..to kill bugs that "hitch hike" on imported produce. The list of countries using irradiation to gain market access is expanding rapidly. Phytosanitary irradiation is quickly and quietly becoming the preferred phytosanitary technology.
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Countries in Asia and Africa are beginning to use irradiation to enhance food security. Much of the food produced on our farms never reaches the consumer. Grains are eaten by weevils, fruit spoils in warehouses, store shelves or in your refrigerator. Estimates are that thirty to forty percent of the food we produce is wasted. Technology must be used to eliminate that loss. Irradiation is a powerful and effective tool that must be used in all food security efforts.
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Research at Chapman University in California shows that irradiation serves as a hurdle step in an overall safety plan to enhance safety while preserving quality of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. Researchers found that extension of shelf-life using irradiation is primarily due to the decrease in spoilage organisms. The effectiveness of irradiation depends on initial quality of the product. Irradiation at the levels optimal for shelf-life extension is also effective against pathogens found in fresh produce. Combining irradiation with other technologies such as calcium treatment, warm water dips, and modified atmosphere packaging can further enhance shelf-life and mitigate adverse effects on quality. We expect to hear more about this type of research in the future.  You can learn more at 
https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/bk-2004-0875.ch006

Ronald F. Eustice has been involved in the commercial introduction of irradiated foods since 1997 while he was serving as executive director, Minnesota Beef Council. During the past 20 years, Eustice has spoken at food safety conferences in more than 30 US states and ten countries regarding consumer acceptance of irradiated food in the marketplace. 
Contact Ronald Eustice at reustice@gmail.com

MYTH of the MONTH: "Irradiation is too expensive." By Russell Stein
Myth:
"Irradiation is too Expensive."

Reality:
There is no such thing as a free irradiated lunch.  However, irradiation processing is not as expensive as many believe.
   
For all goods and services, one can breakdown the costs into two categories: "fixed costs" and "variable costs".  Fixed costs are those that do not rely on the amount of products or services produced.  Building and equipment costs are typically "fixed".  On the other hand, costs that increase with increased production are "variable".  Typically these include raw material costs and hourly wages.  
 
The costs for irradiation facilities are almost all fixed costs.  There are very few variable costs associated with the process.  The primary reason is that irradiation is a process involving no raw materials.  
 
Initial capital requirements for an irradiation facility are relatively high.  The cost for a commercial irradiator starts at over a million dollars and can typically cost several million dollars, depending on production capacity.  This is a fixed cost.  The amount of time and expense to train irradiator operators is most cost effective if they are employed full time; whether or not product is being processed.  This is also a fixed cost.  For gamma facilities, the cobalt-60 source is bought in increments and it is depleted whether or not the irradiator is processing product.  Once again, a fixed cost.  E-beam and X-ray irradiators use electricity to generate their radiation.  For these irradiators, a major portion of their electricity costs are variable, but most of their other costs are fixed.  
 
With most of the costs fixed, the cost to process a pound of product will depend on how many pounds of product are processed.  Simplistically, if the fixed costs are $1,000,000 per year and only one pound is processed, then the cost/pound is $1,000,000!  However, with the same fixed costs, processing 100,000,000 pounds, the cost would only be $0.01 per pound.  
 
Therefore, the trick to economically operating an irradiator is to run as much product through as practical. That is why most commercial irradiators try to operate 24/7/365.  
 
If a company has enough product to irradiate, then it may be cost effective to purchase and operate their own irradiator.  The more product, the lower the cost.  On the other hand, if they do not have enough product to cover their fixed costs, then it will probably be more cost effective to contract with a service irradiation facility.  However, a service facility has some costs that are greater than would be incurred by an in-house facility such as having to deal with multiple regulatory agencies due to the variety of products they may be irradiating.  An in-house facility would only have to deal with regulators specific to their product.  Contract services also have to have irradiation sales staffs, marketing, warehousing facilities and other components not required by in-house processors. And, the service providers need to generate a profit.  Therefore the price/pound of using a service facility will be significantly higher than the cost/pound for an in-house facility assuming the in-house facility has a sufficient volume of product to process.  
 
The relative expense of the product is dependent on the volume of the product being irradiated.  However, how "expensive" it is depends on the value added by the process to the product.  
 
If the benefit of irradiation is greater than the cost of the irradiation, then the process is not expensive.  Today, many foods are irradiated...so one must conclude that it is not as expensive as many believe.
                      
Russell Stein 
GRAY*STAR, Inc.
Irradiation for Peruvian blueberries part of wider U.S. market access talks; FreshFruit Portal (March 18, 2018:
Irradiation of Blueberries from Peru is now a phytosanitary priority
LIMA: A Peruvian blueberry industry representative says achieving U.S. approval for irradiation treatment for exports had been one of numerous negotiating priorities with authorities in the North American country aimed at improving market access arrangements.

Peruvian Blueberry Growers's Association (ProArandano) general manager Sergio del Castillo also said the treatment was due to be carried out at a facility in the U.S. state of Mississippi.

On March 13 the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced it was giving the green light for the treatment method to be used at approved U.S. facilities to mitigate for the South American and Mediterranean fruit flies.

The development gives Peruvian blueberry shippers exporting to the U.S. a third treatment option alongside cold treatment and methyl bromide fumigation, and it comes amid soaring growth in the industry - with export volume rising by 53% in 2017.

Speaking to Fresh Fruit Portal, he explained that Peru is currently negotiating improved market access arrangements for a range of horticultural products, including asparagus and citrus.

In blueberries, he said Peru had three priorities.
"We basically had three issues that we have been negotiating with U.S. authorities for the last two years, which are irradiation treatment, a pre-shipment fumigation program here at the origin, and a systems approach," he said.

Peru is seeking a systems approach protocol as a mitigation process for blueberries produced in pest-free areas, so that the fruit can enter the U.S. without fumigation or cold treatment.

"That is an issue that we had considered, but it is a third-place priority," Del Castillo said.  "Now what we have as the priority is the pre-shipment program which is advancing, and the second [priority] is the issue of irradiation which apparently has been a simpler topic for the U.S. authorities.

"It was not a process that involved carrying out a PRA [pest risk assessment]...and neither did any additional regulations have to be created by the U.S. That is why we have been able to achieve this goal that we had in the negotiations."  According to Del Castillo, the document signed between the two countries authorizes the fruit to be irradiated at one facility in the U.S., located in the state of Mississippi.  "That is the only place where this kind of quarantine treatment for fresh fruits and vegetables will be carried out," he said.

The other Peruvian fruits currently permitted for entry into the U.S. under an irradiation protocol are pomegranates and figs, according to Del Castillo.

Development highlights strong bilateral collaboration
Cort Brazelton, the director of global business development at Oregon-based Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, believed that the most important message of this development - independent of how the new tool actually plays out - is that it shows the two countries have highly functional groups that are working together.  "Peru went from having no industry seven years ago to today having one of the leading, most organized blueberry committees in the world," he said.

"It's very export-oriented, it's proof of how focused they are, and also demonstrates how [phytosanitary watchdog] Senasa of Peru is on taking a science-based approach to finding solutions that help their industry, not driven by politics or trade issues. It also reflects well on APHIS and the USDA.  "These are highly functional groups working together. It's not always like that, and that's really positive."

He said that while irradiation was not in large-scale use in the global blueberry industry, having it available as an approved tool means that people can start working on using it appropriately.  "If it's not an approved tool, you can't even explore the use of it. This goes for a multitude of technologies - old and new," he said.  "Unless there's a protocol and an approved use of the tool, there are limited opportunities to put it under commercial pressure and let the free market develop innovations that leverage its potential.

Brazelton also mentioned that as APHIS has historically set standards for other countries' import requirements, it was possible that irradiation would become a more common tool and an asset in market access issues.

A well-established tool
Speaking from a technical standpoint, Rod Cook of Washington-based Ag-View Consulting explained that both APHIS and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been using irradiation treatment for food products for many years.

"The FDA has some 30 years of experience, and like much of the scientific community around the world, they have really found no data or testing that shows either a decline in nutrition or any hazardous effects, especially at the kind of levels that have been approved here," he said.

He added that labeling is required so consumers can be aware that the products have been treated with irradiation.  Cook mentioned he is assisting the US Highbush Blueberry Council in the management of a USDA grant for investigating alternative methods to methyl bromide fumigation for controlling insect pests for U.S. blueberry exports.

He said that while it has not been widely used in the blueberry industry, it "certainly appears to be effective".

Vietnam targets 10 billion USD from fruit, vegetable exports; Vietnam News Service (April 10, 2018): 
Irradiation is mandatory for lychees from Vietnam to enter the US market
HO CHI MINH City (VNA) - With the positive outcomes from 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, Vietnam is likely to gross 10 billion USD from exporting fruits and vegetables in the foreseeable future, according to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh.

Vietnam earned a record 3.45 billion USD from fruit and vegetable exports in 2017, a year-on-year rise of 40.5 percent, much higher than traditional staples like rice, crude oil and coffee.

In January-March this year, Vietnam raked in 960 million USD from fruit and vegetable exports, up 35.6 percent against the same period last year.

Doanh said the country is shifting ineffective rice cultivation areas to grow fruits under the national agricultural restructuring programme. 

Provinces in the Mekong Delta region such as Tien Giang, Dong Thap and Can Tho have zoned off large areas for growing fruits, he added.

Furthermore, most farmers in the region are aware of the importance of clean production.

Businesses are investing in technology to increase the quality of products for exports.

Dinh Kim Nhung, director of Kim Nhung Produce Trading Limited Company based in the Mekong Delta, said apart from China, her company is exporting mangoes to the Republic of Korea and Japan.

However, these choosy markets require higher technical procedures, so her business has to invest in processing and irradiation treatment for mangoes, she noted.

Nguyen Ba Tuong, owner of Ba Tuong orchard, in Cai Be district, Tien Giang province, shared that there are still many potential markets in the Middle East. They are willing to pay more to buy Vietnamese fruits such as guavas, dragon fruits, star apples and longans, he said.

Vietnamese fruits and vegetables have been sold across 60 markets worldwide.-VNA

The door to US market opens to Vietnam's fruits; Vietnam.net (April 3, 2018): 
Irradiated Vietnamese fruit is now on store shelves throughout the US
V ietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam has successfully entered many markets after years of negotiations, including choosy ones such as the US, Chile, Japan, Taiwan and New Zealand, according to Le Van Thiet, deputy director of the Plant Protection Agency.

Dragon fruit, longan, mango, litchi and star apples are now exported to these markets.

{Editor's Note: Irradiation is a mandatory phytosanitary procedure for many Vietnamese fruits for entry into the US market}.

 As for the US market, Thiet said, after 10 years of negotiations, the country opened its door to Vietnam's star apples. A report shows that 134 consignments of star apples (230 tons) have been shipped to the US.

"The star apple exports have gone beyond our expectations," Thiet said, explaining that this was a very encouraging result. But he noted that only several months have elapsed since the day Vietnam's star apples were accepted to the US.

Under authorization of the US, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has instructed the Plant Protection Agency to grant 18 growing area codes to star apples in the Mekong Delta. Tien Giang province has 16 codes, while Can Tho has two.

The US has also opened its market to Vietnam's mangoes. It is expected that the ceremony for the first mango export shipment ceremony will be organized in April 2018.

Nguyen Dinh Tung, director of Vina T&T, a fruit exporter, said the demand for star apples in the US is surprisingly high. American consumers are willing to pay $100 for half a kilo of star apples. 

Though optimistic about the US market, exporters have been advised to be cautious when exporting products to the US.

Tung said exporters should learn lessons from the export of litchi to Australia. As the demand soared, Vietnamese enterprises exported litchis in large quantities, selling lower-quality litchis and setting lower prices. 

This led to the assumption that Vietnam's litchis have low quality and low prices.

Ngo Tuong Vy, deputy director of Chanh Thu Import/Export Company, confirmed that the demand for star apples is very high, but Chanh Thu has had to reject many export contracts.

"If exports are found having problems, such as the fruit fly, the prestige of Vietnam's fruits will be affected," she said. "That is why we have halted signing contracts."

In January 2018, Vietnam exported $321 million worth of vegetables and fruits, an increase of 36.9 percent over the same period last year.

Vietnam's fruit and vegetable exports reached a record $3.5 billion for year-on-year growth of 43.02 percent, according to MARD. 

USDA proposes imports of fresh pummelo fruit from Thailand; The Packer: By Tom Karst (March 30, 2018): 
Irradiated Pummelo from Thailand soon to be on US grocery shelves
Fresh pummelo citrus fruit from Thailand will be allowed access to the U.S., according to a new proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

After analyzing the potential plant pest risks, USDA scientists believe that pummelos from Thailand can be safely imported, according to a news release. The agency will take comments on the proposal until April 29.

The USDA said the systems approach requires multiple measures, including irradiation treatment, packinghouse processing requirements, and port of entry inspection. In addition, the USDA said the fruit must also be imported in commercial shipments and be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate.

The USDA said Thailand's annual shipments of pummelos to the U.S. could equal about 1% of California's pummelo production, which totaled 540,000 boxes in 2016.
 

Irradiation is helping to ensure food security in India (April  7, 2018): 
India's food grain production has kept a steady pace with its population, but food security remains a challenge. The Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), India's state-owned nuclear research center, is now promoting food irradiation as a viable technology for containing wastage to ensure food for all.

New Delhi (Sputnik): India's food security challenge is multi-faceted but wastage of agricultural produce remains a key concern mainly due to a lack of adequate storage facilities and advanced food processing technology. The government-run Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is now hoping to bridge this gap by promoting food irradiation. Sputnik spoke to Dr. Sunil K. Ghosh, the head of DAE's Food Technology Division, on how the country plans to adopt this technology on a mass scale and how is it going to ensure food security as well as value addition in the export chain.

Sputnik: What is food irradiation? How is it done?
DR. Sunil K. Ghosh: Irradiation processing of food involves the controlled application of energy from ionizing radiations such as gamma rays, electrons, and X-rays for food preservation. Irradiation works by disrupting the biological processes that lead to decay in food. Ionizing radiation interacts with water and other molecules that make up the food and the living organisms thereon. The direct interaction of radiation and radiolytic products of water impair the reproducing capacity of microorganism and insects. Some biological processes, such as the sprouting of tubers like potatoes, garlic and onions, get inhibited, resulting in increased storage life.
population, but food security remains a challenge. The Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), India's state-owned nuclear research center, is now promoting food irradiation as a viable technology for containing wastage to ensure food for all.

New Delhi (Sputnik): India's food security challenge is multi-faceted but wastage of agricultural produce remains a key concern mainly due to a lack of adequate storage facilities and advanced food processing technology. The government-run Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is now hoping to bridge this gap by promoting food irradiation. Sputnik spoke to Dr. Sunil K. Ghosh, the head of DAE's Food Technology Division, on how the country plans to adopt this technology on a mass scale and how is it going to ensure food security as well as value addition in the export chain.

Sputnik: What is food irradiation? How is it done?
DR. Sunil K. Ghosh: Irradiation processing of food involves the controlled application of energy from ionizing radiations such as gamma rays, electrons, and X-rays for food preservation. Irradiation works by disrupting the biological processes that lead to decay in food. Ionizing radiation interacts with water and other molecules that make up the food and the living organisms thereon. The direct interaction of radiation and radiolytic products of water impair the reproducing capacity of microorganism and insects. Some biological processes, such as the sprouting of tubers like potatoes, garlic and onions, get inhibited, resulting in increased storage life.

Sputnik: How popular is this process in the context of the Indian Agri market?
Dr. Sunil K. Ghosh: The indigenous food irradiation facilities in India have an immense commercial prospect. In India, irradiation processing of food has been undertaken both for export and domestic markets. India is well known for its export of basmati and non-basmati rice, spices, seafood, meat, and poultry, and to some extent onions. Irradiation processing can be used for restructuring costs of bulk commodities in export markets, and for selling value-added packaged commodities directly in retail markets. India has one of the world's largest domestic markets. Huge quantities of cereals and pulses and their products, fruits and vegetables, seafood and spices are procured, stored, and distributed throughout the length and breadth of the country. Radiation processing can be used for the storage of bulk and consumer-packed commodities for retail distribution and stocking.


Do the people responsible for foodborne illnesses ever pay?NutritionAction.com (March 27, 2018): 
Food company executives are finally going to prison for selling filthy food that sickens or kills consumers.

Stewart Parnell, the first food executive convicted of a federal felony in connection with a foodborne outbreak, has started serving a 28-year prison sentence while his case is on appeal. His brother, Michael, is serving a 20-year sentence.

Stewart Parnell owned the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), whose Salmonella-contaminated peanut products (including butter and paste) killed at least nine people and sickened thousands in 2008 and 2009.

"I am dumbfounded by what you have found," he wrote to one of PCA's customers, a company that discovered Salmonella in PCA's peanut products, according to the indictment.

Peanut Corporation of America was involved in one of the most-massive and lethal food borne illness outbreaks in US history. The owners will soon begin prison terms.
 
"We run Certificates of Analysis EVERY DAY with tests for Salmonella and have not found any instances of any, even traces, of a Salmonella problem."
In fact, PCA often shipped peanuts or peanut paste with phony certificates before even analyzing them. Upon hearing that a shipment would be delayed because Salmonella test results weren't yet available, Parnell wrote "Just ship it. I cannot afford to loose [sic] another customer."

When lab tests later found Salmonella, PCA never told its customers.

And two Iowa egg producers (Peter and Jack DeCoster) were sentenced to three months in prison after pleading guilty to selling eggs contaminated with Salmonella. The eggs were distributed nationwide and sickened as many as 56,000 people in 2010.

In July, Peter DeCoster started serving his sentence in Minnesota. His father, Jack, will serve his term at a federal facility in New Hampshire.

"It's great to have penalties for misconduct, but the real solution is to catch these things before they happen," food safety attorney and advocate Bill Marler told The New Yorker in 2015.
Salmonella is a major cause of food borne illness caused by contaminated meat, dairy products, cantaloup and peanuts.
 
Editor's Note: 
Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) was a  peanut- processing business with headquarters in  Lynchburg, Virginia, plants in other southern states, and distribution across the United States, now defunct as a result of one of the most massive and lethal food-borne contamination events in U.S. history. PCA was founded in 1977 and initially run by Hugh Parnell, father of Stewart Parnell, with him and two other sons. The company was sold in 1994-1995 with the senior Parnell retiring, and with Stewart Parnell and others remaining with the new company as consultants. In 2000, control of PCA returned to Stewart Parnell via a private sale. Over this history, PCA came to operate processing facilities in  Blakely, GeorgiaSuffolk, Virginia, and  Plainview, Texas, providing peanut and peanut butter products primarily to the "institutional food" market (schools,  prisons and  nursing homes), to food manufacturers for use in cookies, snacks, ice cream, and dog treats, and to other low-end markets.

PCA permanently halted its operations after it was found to be the source of a massive  Salmonella outbreak in the U.S., during late 2008 and early 2009. By 2007, prior to closing its doors, PCA had grown to 90 employees and was doing $25 million in annual sales. It has been estimated to have been manufacturing roughly 2.5% of processed peanuts in the U.S. at that time. The 2008 contamination followed a long history of food quality issues. There had been concerns about sanitation at the company by private individuals since at least the mid-1980s, when the company was run by its founder, Stewart Parnell's father, Hugh Parnell. In addition, in the years just prior to its sale and Hugh Parnell's retirement, PCA was sued: by  American Candy Company in 1990, and by Zachary Confections Inc. of  Frankfort, Indiana in 1991, after discovery that PCA's peanut products exceeded the  FDA tolerance level for  aflatoxin, a mold-derived toxin common to peanuts.
Also in the news ...

lNTERNATIONAL PHYTOSANITARY  IRRADIATION FORUM
 
The Eighth Annual Chapman Phytosanitary Irradiation Forum moves to a new venue for 2018!
 
Hotel Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao, Bangkok, Thailand
June 13-15, 2018
Organized in cooperation with the USDA, the International Irradiation Association (iia), the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology (TINT) and the Joint programme of the FAO/IAEA, the objective of this Phytosanitary Irradiation forum is to increase understanding of irradiation as a phytosanitary treatment to enhance global trade, to prevent invasive pests and to foster dialogue.

Registration will be available at  www.chapman.edu/piforum
 
Contacts:
Dr. Anuradha Prakash, prakash@chapman.edu
Yves Henon, yhenon@iiaglobal.com
Carl Blackburn, c.blackburn@iaea.org

Radurafoodirradiation.org 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