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Food Irradiation Updates

  
Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
August  2014
Ron
Food Irradiation Update is published monthly by Ronald F. Eustice, a food quality & safety assurance consultant based in Minneapolis and Tucson. He can be reached at: reustice@gmail.com
and at 612.202.1016.

Hunger in a world of plenty and what we can do about it. Various reports from credible sources tell us that in many countries farmers lose over 40 per cent of their farm produce as a result of poor processing and storage facilities.

This is a huge loss, not just to the farmers, but the economy itself. World population stands at 7 billion and is predicted to rise to 9.2 billion by 2050. There is an urgent need to use technology to prevent these losses. Irradiation will extend freshness, prevent insect infestation and and sprouting and make our food safer. India and Nigeria are actively looking for ways to include irradiation in their food security programs.  It's time for governments and international agencies to follow their lead.

IN THIS ISSUE

Irradiation: The pathway for Pa'ina Hawaii to open markets in the US Mainland:

Irradiation has become the pathway for Pa'ina Hawaii to open markets in the US Mainland.

By Ronald F. Eustice

  

Michael Kohn established Michael Kohn dba Hawaii Fruit Company in 1987 and began to export papayas to Germany and Switzerland. Phytosanitary treatment was not a requirement for access to the European market and business grew rapidly. To justify higher shipping costs from Hawaii to Europe, it was necessary to offer a value-added product, which turned out to be tree-ripened fruits. 

 

At about the same time Kohn wanted to ship papaya and other fruit to the US Mainland, however, because of fruit flies in Hawaii and other pests of concern to U.S mainland agriculture, most fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Hawaii require post-harvest quarantine treatment prior to export to the Mainland. Kohn says, "At that time, the only approved treatment to mitigate the pests were vapor or dry heat, but fully-ripened fruit would not tolerate the heat or vapor treatment." 

 

Irradiation is used to allow tree-ripened fruit to be shipped to the US Mainland.
 

Kohn abandoned the idea of shipping to Hawaii's largest traditional market, the US Mainland, until he learned about irradiation from Lyle Wong, who was then Administrator of the Plant Industry Division of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. He began to discuss irradiation with Kohn in 1995. At first, Kohn was quite skeptical of the idea to use irradiation treatment, but gradually became a firm believer. 

 

Wong showed Kohn that irradiation offered much greater opportunity to Hawaii's farmers and shippers than any other treatment.  Treating fully tree-ripened papayas was the first opportunity. 

 

The second opportunity was the fact that produce would be treated after it had been packed out in the final export box. It allowed for continuous control of product quality by farmers and shippers, which is not the case of papaya delivered by growers to contract heat treatment facilities where the fruit is heat treated prior to sorting and packing.  

 

For those farmers and shippers that were already exporting (to places that did not require treatment like Canada) few changes were necessary in order to ship to the US Mainland. The only difference was that product would need to be treated by irradiation before loading on planes or ships to the Mainland.

The third opportunity for Hawaii agriculture is the fact that irradiation as a phytosanitary treatment can treat almost all of Hawaii grown crops. 

 

While thermal or chemical treatment is crop specific irradiation is pest specific. Many crops such as basil, do not require any form of treatment. They just have to be free of pests. In reality many shippers have experienced rejections of consignments as a result of hitch hiking pests, especially in California. The rejections are costly and leave customers with no product to sell. Irradiation quarantine treatment is an efficient and effective handling step to neutralize pests of quarantine to US agriculture.

 

Only vibrant, fully ripe papayas are picked off the trees.

At first Kohn shipped untreated fruit to Chicago and New Jersey under USDA, APHIS, PPQ Limited Permit for irradiation treatment in commercial irradiators.  That venture, which lasted five years, was expensive but very effective. Transportation costs were high but so was the quality, in fact there were no negative aspects to quality at all. Consumer acceptance was very good. 

 

It became obvious that in order to reduce costs, a reliable irradiation facility open and accessible to all farmers and shippers was needed in Hawaii. In 2005, Michael became a co-owner and president of Pa'ina Hawaii.

 

Pa'ina Hawaii installed a Gray*Star Genesis II irradiator in 2012 and began offering commercial irradiation phytosanitary services on January 31, 2013. The facility is currently treating papaya, Okinawan purple sweet potato, sweet and Thai basil, Moringa leaves and pods (i.e., drum sticks), ginger, melons, taro leaves, curry leaves, longan, litchi, mangosteen, and rambutan using low-dose irradiation. A higher dose is used to sterilize finely ground macadamia nut shell which is used as an ingredient in cosmetics.

 

Pa'ina Hawaii installed a Gray*Star Genesis II irradiator and began commercial irradiation phytosanitary services on January 31, 2013.

Thus far Pa'ina has been irradiating mostly Hawaii grown products but some imports from the US Mainland to Hawaii market are anticipated because irradiation is an alternative to methyl bromide fumigation. Potential also exists for high-risk pest commodities such as cut flowers and foliage from Pacific Island areas for pest disinfestation. The Pa'ina Hawaii facility also has the potential to be used to irradiate Asian-grown produce destined for the US Mainland.


The company is located 21 minutes from Honolulu International Airport and about 30 minutes from Honolulu harbor. The Honolulu airport as well as the harbor are the logistical focal points in the state of Hawaii. Almost all outbound or inbound cargo transits through Honolulu. For shippers, especially on outer-islands additional services are provided by Pa'ina. These include trucking, refrigeration, container loading and TSA screening. According to Michael "it is not enough to provide a piece of paper that allows you to ship to the Mainland, we need also ensure that product quality will not change before reaching the Mainland. Over 25 years of hands on experience with papayas have taught me that handling and refrigeration are of utmost importance". 

 

While growth was slow in the beginning, Kohn says business has been picking up and Pa'ina Hawaii has become a credible business that Hawaiian farmers and shippers can rely on. Besides their own produce, Pa'ina Hawaii is irradiating products for over thirty shippers and farmers that do their own marketing and shipping. Kohn says that the customers come in all sizes.

 

Kohn did not disclose volume but information from several sources indicates that two Hawaiian irradiation companies irradiate about 16 million pounds of product annually. Kohn keeps customer names confidential but indicates that if someone in the trade asks about a specific commodity, information is passed on to the shipper/farmer for follow-up contact to bring producers, shippers and buyers together.

 

Kohn says that customers have been very positive about irradiation. He says, "irradiation does not diminish the quality of produce, and at best it can be used to achieve extraordinary results.  He adds, "It's the only treatment that can be used to treat fully tree-ripened fruits and we all know the difference between a forced to ripen fruit and one picked ripe off a tree. We have a very good customer in Los Angeles that sells to high-end restaurants. High-end restaurants require readily useable fruit. You cannot tell a customer to come back to your restaurant in three days when the fruit becomes ready to eat.  High-end restaurants want to distinguish themselves by using high quality products. In the case of tree-ripened papayas (or any other fruits) irradiation allows for a distinctly better taste and texture." 

Today, thanks to irradiation more than ten countries are using the technology for market access to the United States. Through USDA/APHIS efforts US growers now have access to markets in those same countries. Irradiation in many cases is mandatory and the only available treatment to mitigate the threat from harmful pests. 

 

Kohn says the market for irradiated produce is growing not only in the US but also other markets important to Hawaii like New Zealand and Australia. "China has a very active food irradiation program and we hope to ship to the huge Chinese market soon," he adds.

 

Because Hawaii has unique microclimates, there is an almost endless list of products that can be irradiated and must be irradiated to gain market access. 

There is an endless list of products that can be irradiated and must be irradiated to gain market access. Hawaii has unique microclimates. Almost anything can be grown in Hawaii. Kohn says that he had never heard of many of the exotic fruits that they regularly treat. He says, "We plan to become certified for imports from foreign countries in the near future. That could significantly add to the variety of produce irradiated from tropical places in Asia."

 

Pa'ina Hawaii has had a very positive experience with USDA programs. Irradiation as a phytosanitary treatment is relatively new and USDA programs are being built around it.  Kohn adds, "Science told us irradiation is very effective but you also need proof. As more and more irradiators have come on line and we watch over time how effective USDA irradiation programs are, the greater the confidence everyone has. 

So far there has never been an infestation caused on the US Mainland by product that was irradiated and shipped from either Hawaii or foreign countries. That is impressive while the treatment by itself causes no negative impacts on humans or the environment. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too."

 

Kohn is impressed with the growing list of US food processors looking into food irradiation these days, especially in regard to food safety, which is the reason why Omaha Steaks and Schwan's irradiate all of their hamburger meat. He adds, "It gets trickier when it comes to produce. The FDA has set an upper limit of absorbed dose, which is sufficient to eliminate insect pests but too low to effectively remove Salmonella, Listeria, E-coli, and other dangerous food borne pathogens." 

 

When asked what it would take to gain more interest in using some form of irradiation to treat finished products, Kohn said, "Irradiation needs to be better explained. The positive aspects are plenty while the negative are very few."  Pa'ina Hawaii regularly receives inquiries about irradiation, how it works, what the cost is, what other services are provided and also about potential drawbacks. Kohn says, "That's how customers and the public are educated."

 

Kohn says, "Phytosanitary treatment by irradiation allows Hawaiian agriculture to access the most important market - the US Mainland. This is only true if the irradiation facility does not monopolize markets but rather ensures fair and open access to everyone in Hawaii. We have committed to that long before we became operational. Hawaii agriculture faces many problems. Market access should not be one of them, but it has been."

Link to Article...  

MYTH of the MONTH
"All food should be irradiated."
Myth:

"All food should be irradiated."


Reality:

This notion is ill-conceived. Irradiation is a useful tool that can be used to improve the safety, quality and/or distribution of many foods.  Irradiation should be used by food companies when the benefits of its use are greater than the associated costs.

 

Both heating and irradiation have chemical, physical and/or biological effects on different materials.   We can, and do, employ both of these forms of energy to provide specific improvements to various food products.

 

Heat can be used to pasteurize certain foods.  But all foods do not need pasteurization to be safe to eat.  It can be used to cook food, but many of our foods are preferred uncooked.  It can be used to bake bread, but we do not survive on bread alone.  There is no reason to use heat processing on all food.

 

The irradiation process can be used to pasteurize certain foods.  It can be used to delay ripening in certain foods.  It can be used to kill insect pests in certain foods.  For some foods it can be used to decrease flatulence.  However, the specific effects are for certain foods and not common to all food.  Similar to heat, there is no reason to irradiate all food.

 

Irradiation is a tool that can be employed on certain foods for certain advantages.  Often there are competitive techniques that may be employed.  For example, both heat and radiation can be used to kill microorganisms in food.  However there are technical differences between the two processes.  Irradiation is a cold process allowing product to be disinfected without cooking.  The heat process also cooks the product.  Often this cooking is viewed as a benefit such as with canned peaches.  For some foods the side effect of cooking might be viewed as a negative.  Spinach salad uses raw spinach.  Personally, it makes me a bit queasy imagining a spinach salad made from canned spinach.  And yet, there is a separate market for canned spinach.  By using a different process, the same vegetable is made into two different products.  To reduce the threat of pathogens in spinach, we think of heat for canned...irradiation for fresh.  For the record, I like fresh spinach and canned spinach, fresh peaches and canned peaches.  Heck, I even like fresh, cooked succotash, but I love eating succotash right out of the can...cold!

 

The individual companies of the food industry determine if there is an advantage for each of their products to be heated, or irradiated, or processed in any other way.  They weigh the advantages of each process against the costs of using that process.  And the market determines if there is a willingness to accept, and pay for, these advantages.

 

The only process common to all food is that of digestion. 

Russell N. Stein

GRAY*STAR, Inc.

www.GrayStarInc.com

ALSO IN THE NEWS:

295 Tonnes of Irradiated Mangoes From India Shipped To USA; By Tushar Pawar, The Times of India (July 22, 2014):

NASHIK: India's only irradiation centre at Lasalgaon, about 70 kms from Nashik, has

India is one of ten countries that have established reciprocal trade agreements with the USDA for import and export of irradiated produce. 

irradiated a record 295 metric tonnes of mangoes for export to USA in the current mango season. This is the highest quantity irradiated since the centre started treating mangoes in 2009.

As per norms, it is mandatory to irradiate the king of fruits before being shipped to the USA. Around seven metric tonnes of mangoes are irradiated in eight-hour shifts daily at the Lasalgaon facility.
The Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) started irradiation of mangoes from the beginning of the mango season for export. Speaking to TOI, an MSAMB official said, "We have crossed the target set for the irradiation centre at Lasalgaon in Nashik district. We irradiated 295 metric tonnes of mangoes this season, against the 281 metric tonnes last season. The irradiation of mangoes continued up to July 15."  Link to Article...

Read this too: European Union bann of Indian mangoes to counter insect pests.

Using Nuclear Technology to Curb Harvest Losses; Nigerian News from Leadership Newspapers;Ruth Tene Natsa (July 11, 2014): 

World health scientific organizations report that over 40 percent of farm produce in Nigeria is lost.

A major limitation to farming can be blamed on post-harvest losses and the need to effectively reduce and subsequently curb that is what has led to the Nigerian government to seek nuclear and technological solutions. Ruth Tene Natsa writes on the efforts of government, through the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), to attain this.

It's been reported that farmers lost over 40 per cent of their farm produce as a result of poor processing and storage facilities.

This is a huge loss, not just to the farmers, but the economy itself, especially as Nigeria is an agrarian state with large potential to cultivate any crop.

Meanwhile, as the drive is being sustained, there may be attempts to integrate the use of nuclear technology in food and agriculture. This is probably to complement plans to reduce post harvest losses, prevent wastage as well as improve agricultural productivity. It is a well established fact that radiation processing technology is gaining increasing importance all over the world. It is now being used in agriculture through radiation treatment of food to prevent spoilage and food-borne diseases.

Nigeria, as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), aligned some of its developmental agenda in which the ATA with the IAEA are inclusive.
Nigerian Federal Government Approves & Endorses Food Irradiation; By Collins Nnabuife - Abuja, Nigerian Tribune (July 8, 2014)
Food irradiation is a valuable tool that can significantly reduce harvest losses. The Nigerian government realizes the potential of this under-utilized technology.
 ABUJA, NIGERIA: The Federal Government of Nigeria has approved the use of gamma irradiation in food preservation and control in the country. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, who endorsed use of the technology when he received the Deputy Director-General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mr Kwaku Aning, in Abuja, commended it for its assistance through technical input, fellowships, expert missions, training workshops, financial sponsorship and technical co-operation projects in the country.

The minister explained that gamma irradiation would allow the country to produce and preserve her food even for export to reasonable size of the world's market.

Adesina further noted that the use of the technology would also help in mutation breeding as the application of the nuclear technique in characterisation of food contaminants and pollutant would ensure food safety.

He promised that all available tools would be deployed to solve food problems in the country. 

According to the minister, the country would continue to align its developmental objectives with the IAEA's plan of development by effectively harnessing the benefits offered by proper and peaceful application of nuclear science and technology through IAEA's technical co-operation programme.

He assured of the readiness of government to invest heavily in science and technology and pledged his ministry's readiness to work collaboratively with the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and Nigeria's Bio-Technology Agency to educate the citizens on the use of science and technology in food preservation. 

Expand Nuclear Power to Alleviate World Hunger; by Ramtanu Maitra; Executive Intelligence Review (July 25, 2014)

Over 1.2 billion people-20% of the world's population-are today without access to electricity, and almost all of them live in developing countries. This includes about 550 million in Africa and over 400 million in India. It is incumbent upon all the world leaders to bring this number to zero at the earliest possible date, and thus provide these people with a future to look forward to within a span of 25 years. Can this be done with fossil fuels, wind, and solar power? The answer is a resounding "No!"

The only way world can meet the power requirements of one and all is by fully exploiting the highest energy-flux density power generation achieved through nuclear fission now, and by starting to move to an even higher level by using hydrogen as fuel in generating power through nuclear fusion. As of March 11, 2014, in 31 countries, 435 nuclear power plant units with an installed electric net capacity of about 372 GW were in operation, and an additional 72 plants with an installed capacity of 68 GW in 15 countries were under construction. Altogether, the existing nuclear power plants provide a shade over 11% of the world's installed generating capacity. Most of the other 89% comes from the burning of fossil fuels.

What becomes evident from those figures is that almost no country-big or small-has made the essential commitment to generate power in the future entirely through nuclear fission. Why have world leaders refrained from fully using this cleanest and most efficient energy source? Instead, we see countries such as China and India, among the larger ones that are committed to greater agro-industrial growth, mining and hauling hundreds of millions of tons of coal on a daily basis to generate power to meet their developmental requirements. Link to Article...

PDF of Article...

India Government Eyes Nuclear Technology to End Vegetable Shortage; The Times of India (June 26, 2014): 

Up to 40% of the harvest in India is lost to causes that can easily be solved with irradiation.
DELHI: To curb rising food prices, the Union government is contemplating using large-scale nuclear irradiation technology for increasing the shelf life of fruit and vegetables, particularly that of onions and potatoes.

Extended shelf life will enable the government to meet its supply shortage during lean seasons.

"In between July and October, we face shortage of onions, potatoes and tomatoes, due to which we need technologies that can increase the shelf life by at least six months. We saw a presentation by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) on how application of radiation technology improved the shelf life of onions and potatoes," Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said.

Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region, V K Singh, along with ministers of state for food and agriculture participated in the meeting.

Secretaries of all the departments were also present in the meeting. Paswan said the government might look at establishing such irradiation plants alongside Central Warehousing Corporation and Food Corporation of India warehouses mainly those situated around metro cities.

"We have instructed all the secretaries to hold further discussions with scientists and officials from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and department of atomic energy to take forward this expansion plan," Paswan said.

Former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission Anil Kakodkar,  present in the meeting, said there are two plants in the government sector which use irradiation technology. The first is in Vashi for spices and the second in Lasalgaon for onions, apart from 10-12 such units in the private sector but most of these are small and suffer from lack of economies of scale.

"We can make storage through this technology and ensure supplies during the lean season," Kakodkar said. On the question of safety and regulatory issues arising due to use of nuclear radiation in fruits and vegetables, Kakodkar said this technology has been approved by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission and there are no safety issues whatsoever.
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
Phone: 612.202.1016
reustice@gmail.com 

 



 
 

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