Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
August  2017
Featured Article: Using Food Irradiation to Feed a Hungry World; By Ronald F. Eustice:
Why so much hunger in a world of plenty? 
Irradiation is an under-utilized technology that not only makes our food supply safer but also more secure.

Global population will exceed 9 billion by 2050, up from some 7 billion people on earth today. Thanks to modern technology, improved genetics, sustainable management and environmental stewardship, farmers, growers and ranchers are producing more food than at any time in history.  
Despite increased yields, there is a growing wave of food insecurity that threatens more than 1 billion people around the world. Global food costs are growing to dangerous levels, reaching record highs. And these prices are expected to persist, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In many countries, food never reaches the people because of spoilage.

We are at a crossroads
The global economic recession has decreased consumer buying power and increased food insecurity. In the near future, tight supplies and rising food prices may stretch an already extended system to the breaking point. 
During the 1960's and seventies the "Green Revolution" used science and technology to increase yields and helped make many countries in the developing world technically self sufficient in food production. Importing countries such as India, Mexico and many others became net exporters. Hybrid seeds combined with responsible use of chemical fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation produced yields previously considered impossible. While the Green Revolution remains a "work in progress" in certain regions of the world (mainly sub-Saharan Africa) significant progress has been made.
Despite record food production, more than 100 million join the ranks of the world's hungry each year. The rise in global population coincides with an increase in world hunger. No longer is the number of hungry people steadily decreasing. In fact, the number of malnourished could grow staggeringly as the population reaches 9 billion by mid-century. 
Why are so many hungry in a world of plenty?
There are many reasons-ranging from poverty and politics to food waste, spoilage and infrastructure issues. But morally, it's unacceptable. A recent United Nations report estimates that more than one billion people consume less than 1800 calories per day and go to bed hungry every night.

We must not over simplify a complex situation. Certainly the global economic situation has made certain foods less affordable for a sizeable portion of the world's population. Political instability, civil strife, drought, and unreliable distribution systems have all exacerbated the situation. While the weather, politics and inadequate distribution systems are mostly beyond our control, we do have resources available to help us improve the situation.
Just as the Green Revolution used science to feed a hungry world, it is imperative that we once again look to technology to prevent a global food crisis. We must continue to rely on innovations available while seeking to identify new and unter-utilized paractices to feed more people. 
Post harvest food loss in Africa represents a multi-faceted challenge that reduces the income of approximately 470 million farmers and other value chain participants by as much as 15% (The Rockefeller Foundation 2013). 
A recent study released by the United Nations Environment Program shows that over half of the food produced globally is lost, wasted or discarded as a result of inefficiency in the human-managed food chain. 
Losses and food waste in the United States could be as high as 50 percent, according to some recent estimates. Up to one-quarter of all fresh fruits and vegetables in the United States is lost between the field and the table.  

While relatively simple approaches exist to reduce post harvest loss, such as improved handling of perishable crops, currently no proven intervention is routinely used to mitigate this issue at a scale sufficient to dramatically improve the lives of poor and vulnerable people affected by it.  
Food losses and wastage can be reduced by irradiation 
Food irradiation is a vital key to increase food security:
Countries such as India, Malaysia, Nigeria and dozens of others have officially identified food irradiation as a focal point to alleviate rising food prices and hunger.  

Current treatments designed to prevent spoilage include the use of fumigants, chemical washes and pesticides. These are surface treatments that can leave chemical residues on the skins. Some of these are potentially harmful and importing countries, including the USA, Japan and many in Europe, have banned the use of several common fumigants such as ethylene dibromide, ethylene dichloride and ethylene oxide.  The fumigant most widely used today is methyl bromide (MeBr) which is highly ozone depleting. 
The time has come to take a serious look at food irradiation as a routine practice that is one of the most effective tools to alleviate world hunger. Irradiation which uses energy supplied by gamma rays, electron beams or x-rays, is a cost effective and environmentally-friendly technology that has the potential to do more to prevent food spoilage and alleviate hunger than any other technology we have available. 
In addition to controlling pests and eliminating harmful bacteria, irradiation extends the storage life of many foods. This effect makes irradiation particularly useful for fruits which are commonly infested and also require extended shelf-life in order to be shipped long distances to reach consumer markets in good quality.  
Although irradiation is often clearly a superior technology, there are certain factors that currently limits its use. Primarily among these are: 1) lack of regulatory approvals, 2) labeling issues, 3) lack of consumer information and understanding, 4) the wide dissemination of false and incorrect information regarding irradiation, and 5) accessibility to logistically viable facilities.
Every minute we delay is another minute during which 12 children will die from hunger. This is morally wrong, given that solutions exist. Facts support a more hopeful future where the consumer's right to choose and the farmer's right to use safe efficient and effective technologies are protected and the moral imperative of feeding the world is finally achieved. Irradiation is an underutilized technology that can significantly increase the security of our food supply. 
MYTH of the MONTH: "Any commercial irradiator can be used for any food irradiation process." By Russell Stein
"Any commercial irradiator can be used for any food irradiation process."
Technically true. Economically uncomfortable.

Many food and non-food products are irradiated. The properties of these products vary greatly as does the purpose of irradiating these products. Further, the logistics for handling different products vary from one industry to another and even from one company to another. It is important that the design, location and operation of the irradiator is "just right" to minimize costs, or at least right enough to make the use of a facility economically feasible.

The following are some of the key product and process variables that factor into the type of irradiator that would minimize costs:
Dose: There are many different reasons for irradiating different products. To achieve the desired effect, different doses are required. For example, to stop potatoes from sprouting, a minimum dose of as little as 30 Gray is required. However, NASA requires a minimum dose of 44,000 Gray to irradiate meat for astronauts. Imagine an irradiator with a continuous conveyor system optimized to irradiate the astronaut's meals. To process potatoes in that same irradiator would require the conveyor to travel roughly 1,500 times faster. There might be ways of running the potatoes, but they would not be optimal. Similarly, irradiating the astronaut's turkey would take 1,500 times longer when processed in an irradiator designed for potatoes.
Density: The density of different products varies greatly. Generally speaking, as the density of the product increases, the penetration of the radiation through the product becomes more difficult. In essence, the inside of the product is shielded by the outside of the product. The effect of this shielding is a function of density. This property ultimately affects the dose uniformity throughout the product. It can be compensated for by configuring the thickness of the product being irradiated, but that might affect how the product is normally handled and thus not optimal. For many products, dose uniformity is not an issue. However, for some products, such as food, dose uniformity is a major factor. The design of the irradiator is dependent on the dose uniformity requirements of the products serviced. Another role that density plays in the design of an irradiator is related to how the product is conveyed through the irradiator. Higher density products are, by definition, heavier for the same volume of material. A conveyor system designed for high density (heavy) products could be used for both high and low-density products. However, the construction of physically stronger conveyor systems requires more and heavier structural components. These conveyor components will absorb a portion of the radiation intended for the product. For this, and similar reasons, a unit designed for heavy products will not treat low density products as efficiently as an irradiator designed specifically for low density products. On the up side, to run the same volume containers of high density products in a low-density irradiator would overload the conveyor system's weight limits. Smaller volumes of the high-density product could be run, but this would not be optimal.
Flexibility: Dose and density are key factors in the design of an irradiator. There are many more. Ideally an irradiator would be solely designed and optimized for one product at one dose, one density, one package size/configuration, and the specific production volume of that product to run the irradiator 24/7/365. [An irradiator designer's dream!] Unfortunately, for the irradiator designer, the current food products being irradiated do not have the production volumes for a dedicated unit. So, some flexibility needs to be incorporated into the design of irradiators to accommodate similar products and similar processes. The irradiation of perishable foods presents new issues that require greater design flexibility. The current logistics of perishable foods dictate that irradiators need to be able to run both very small and very large lots of products and to be able to efficiently change from one product to another. For some perishable foods such as fruits and vegetables, seasonality becomes a major factor. Generally speaking, the more flexible the design and operation of an irradiator, the higher the costs.

A commercial irradiator that can be used for any process will not be as viable as an irradiator dedicated to one specific product. But an irradiator designed for one specific food product would not currently be commercially viable.
When Goldilocks looks for an irradiator to process her porridge, she needs to factor in the specific processing and logistics of her porridge and determine what is "just right".            
Link to Article ...
Russell Stein 
 Pakistan Mangoes Seek Markets; The News (August 8, 2017) 
KARACHI: These days, the markets in Pakistan are full of mangoes - the most delicious fruit of the country. In Japan, Pakistani mangoes are being sold for $4 a piece whereas in Pakistan, we can purchase three kilos of mangoes in that amount. But mangoes cannot be exported to Japan, the US and other countries, if we don't meet the stringent export requirements for their export. The importers fear that pests would enter their countries through untreated mangoes. It is therefore a requirement of the importing countries that the mangoes should be subjected to Vapour Heat Treatment (VHT) and irradiation before export. VHT uses saturated water vapour of higher temperatures that sterilises the pests without the use of chemicals in an environment-friendly manner.

This process kills the fruit flies effectively. Large volumes of fruit can be sterilised in a single chamber with uniform temperature and humidity. By irradiation of mangoes we mean exposing them briefly to a radiant energy source such as gamma rays. The process not only kills harmful bacteria but also increases the shelf life of the fruit by increasing the ripening process. It is recommended that specialists from the importing countries are based in Pakistan to oversee the VHT and irradiation processes. The other thing that increases the chances of the export of an item is its packaging. The packaging plays an important role in exporting any commodity. It should be of the international standards which should be followed. It should also be done under the supervision of a foreign specialist.
MPs get tips on green, home-grown tech; Asian Age (July 25, 2017)
Irradiation is element of scientific change 
NEW DELHI: For a period of two weeks, MPs will get an opportunity to refine themselves as catalysts of scientific and environmental change in their constituencies. On offer will be demos and literature on indigenous eco-friendly, people-centric technologies that they can select and seek transfer of with the objective of transforming lives back home.

From Bhabha Atomic Research Centre's (BARC) irradiation technology to improve shelf life of farm produce to solar power tree of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, from portable toilet cabins built by National Physical Laboratory using tiles made from recycled polythene bags to technology to convert second-grade tea granule into high-value tea wine, the environment and science exhibition starting July 28 at Parliament Annexe promises to be an eye-opener for MPs.

Taking technology from "lab to field" is our vision behind organising this environment and science exhibition, said Renuka Chowdhury, chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on science and technology, environment and forests.

"During my visits to research institutes, I realised that revolutionary technologies have been developed by our scientists but these are not reaching the rural masses, just because the scientists are not trained to market them," said Ms Chowdhury, who conceptualised the exhibition.

"Something as simple as BARC's food irradiation technology can preserve potato yield for four-five months, saving the farmers from the trouble of keeping their produce in cold storage. Countries like Israel have been using this technology for decades as it can save surplus farm produce from rotting," she said.

Irradiation preserves nutrients in food and kills microbes that destroy them. It improves the safety and extends the shelf life of foods, she said.

The exhibition will bring together five Union ministries and over a dozen autonomous institutes linked to them to showcase their people-oriented innovations and help MPs go "window shopping" for technologies that they think have scope for application in their constituencies. "Literature and demonstrations in the new technologies will be available at the exhibition. Visiting MPs will be educated and encouraged to help popularise them among their electorate," said a member of the exhibition organising team.

Vice-president Hamid Ansari will inaugurate the exhibition at an event that will also be attended by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and environment and science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan, among others, he said. "All MPs will be sent an invitation for the exhibition," he said.
Also in the News: BARC Develops Preservative-Free, Ready-to-Eat Foods ; Daily News & Analysis (August 6, 2017):
MUMBAI: Preservative-free, ready-to-eat food will soon be a reality in India. Scientists at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) have developed a technology to make food items consumable for a longer period of time, while retaining nutritional value.

While a number of ready-to-eat options are available in India already, they are laden with preservatives and tend to lose their nutritional value and taste due to the method through which they are processed, which is by exposure to heat. BARC scientists use irradiation technology. Products are treated under gamma rays at very low temperatures - minus 40
degrees to prepare frozen food.

They have transferred this technology to a meal manufacturing company that will soon launch ready-to-eat items such as chicken tikka.

Dr Archana Joshi, Scientific Officer at BARC, says, "We have used this technology with raw products such as ginger, semolina and pulses. When food is treated at low temperatures under gamma rays, it retains its nutritional value and prevents the growth of microbes."

The research centre has also been irradiating mangoes to increase their life and increase export. "Indian mangoes are very popular in other countries, but carry insects. The irradiation process helps kill them," said Dr Joshi. This year itself, BARC has irradiated 1,150 tonnes of mangoes.

This is one of the many innovations by Indian research institutes and research and development (R&D) centres currently on display inside the Parliament as part of the 'Innovations in Science' exhibition.
Also in the News: Vietnamese Fruit Exports Rose 45% in First Quarter 2017; Vietnam News Service (July 31, 2017) :
Food Standards Australia New Zealand support irradiation to help increase Vietnam fruit exports
HÀ NỘI - Vietnamese dragon fruit is being exported to 40 countries and territories, such as China, Thailand and Indonesia, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). 

The fruit is also entering new markets, including India, New Zealand, Australia and Chile, the ministry added.

MARD is coordinating with the Ministry of Industry and Trade to complete procedures to ship dragon fruit to Australia in 2017. 

In January this year, the Australian Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources released its final review of bio-security requirements for Việt Nam's fresh dragon fruit. 

In mid-June, a letter was sent to the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade by the Australian Embassy in Vietnam, detailing the process of opening the market for Vietnamese fresh dragon fruit. 

The embassy also recommended supporting Việt Nam in asking permission from the Food Standards Australia New Zealand to use irradiation treatment on dragon fruit shipped to Australia. 

Dragon fruit is a Vietnamese agricultural staple with export earnings of US$895.7 million in 2016, making up 50.3 per cent of the country's fresh fruit exports and 36.1 per cent of overall vegetable exports. - VNS
Also in the News: Irradiation Techology Increases Food Shelf-Life in India:   Business Standard (August 3, 2017):
In India, irradiation is used to increase shelf life of onions, potatoes and garlic.
MUMBAI: Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) - Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has been engaged in R&D work on the technology of preservation and hygienization of food and agri-products by irradiation. Irradiation is very effective in treating the horticultural produces. Extension of shelf life of horticultural produces is very much depended on the produce, variety and storage conditions. For many fresh agri produce subjected to irradiation and proper storage, substantial shelf life extension has been achieved.
Unique advantages of radiation processing are:
· Significant increase in shelf life for many products including fruits, vegetables, cereals, pulses, spices, sea foods and meat products.
· Effective elimination of harmful bacteria, viruses and insects/pests.
· Cold & clean process (No temperature raise or residue); and treatment done after final packaging (no repacking necessary).

BARC-DAE has set up two technology demonstration units, one commissioned in the year 2000 for high dose irradiation at Vashi, Navi Mumbai, and another in 2002, for low dose irradiation, KRUSHAK (Krushi Utpadan Sanrakshan Kendra) facility at Lasalgaon, near Nashik. The facilities are being operated by the Board of Radiation & Isotope Technology (BRIT).

Recently the harmonization of food irradiation rules with the international regulation through adaptation of class wise clearance of irradiated food items by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has taken place [Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Sixth Amendment Regulations, 2016] for large scale deployment of this technology.

The quantum of horticulture produce in India is huge. Hence, many more facilities are needed. 
Currently 15 irradiation plants are functional in the country which includes two plants set up by Government of India (KRUSHAK at Lasalgaon, Nashik, Maharashtra; and Radiation Processing Plant at Vashi, Navi Mumbai), and one each by State Government of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Annually, about 20,000 MT of food and allied products are being irradiated in the country.
This information was provided by the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha. 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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