Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
August  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  
I am writing this issue of Food Irradiation Update from Karachi, Pakistan. Mangoes are everywhere, delicious mangoes! Pakistan produces 1.7 million metric tons of mangoes annually and ranks fifth in the world in production. There is strong interest in expanding international markets. Currently about seven percent of Pakistan's mango production is exported. Irradiation is mandatory for access to the US and probably several other key markets. Until now, only a small volume of mangoes have been exported from Pakistan to the United States. Irradiation will help Pakistan and other countries open new mango markets.

Publisher's Platform: 2018 has been a Big, Bad Year for Foodborne Illnesses in the US;   By  Bill Marler; Food Safety News (July 22, 2018)
2018 has been an Big, Bad Year for Foodborne Illnesses in the US:
SEATTLE: First off, yes, 2018 seems to be - and we are just 1/2 way into it - a very Big, Bad year for foodborne illnesses.

Second, I am not sure why.

It could be better surveillance by state, local and national health authorities utilizing cutting edge tools such as PFGE and WGS.  It could be a lack of support for inspectors.  It is certainly possible that it is more imports with a greater supply chain with a great chance for contamination or temperature abuse. It also could be more mass produced fresh, ready to eat foods without a "kill step."

It also could be none of those things, but it seems to me to be more than just random events. Here are some of the highlights of 2018:

E. coli:
Romaine Lettuce: 
218 sick in US and Canada with 96 hospitalizations and 5 deaths.

McDonald's Salads - 163 sick with 3 hospitalizations.

Del Monte Vegetable Trays - 237 sick with 7 hospitalizations.

Jimmy John's Sprouts - 10 sick.

Kratom - 199 sick with 50 hospitalizations.

Fareway/Triple T Chicken Salad - 265 sick with 94 hospitalizations and 1 death.

Go Smile Coconut - 14 sick with 3 hospitalizations.

Rose Acre Shell Eggs - 45 sick with 11 hospitalizations.
Caito Cut Melons - 70 sick with 34 hospitalizations.

Kellogg's Honey Smacks - 100 sick with 34 hospitalizations.

Hy-Vee Pasta Salad - 21 sick with 5 hospitalizations.
Raw Turkey - 90 sick with 40 hospitalizations.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus
Venezuelan Crab Meat - 12 sick with 4 hospitalizations.

And, we are only 1/2 way through the year.
MYTH of the MONTH: "It would take a huge dose of irradiation, much more than is needed, to actually make foods radioactive."  By Russell Stein
"It would take a huge dose of radiation, much more than is needed, to actually make food radioactive." 

This statement is incorrect. Food will not be made radioactive no matter how "huge" the dose. 

"Dose" is the amount of radiation energy absorbed (quantity) in the product. Dose is measured in Grays. One Gray is equal to 1 joule per kilogram. As the radiation hits the molecules of food, the radiation energy is totally converted to heat energy (absorbed).

Similarly, if you put the same food in your household oven, the heat energy is transferred to the molecules of food. The heat energy absorbed could also be measured in joules per kilogram. No matter how much heat is applied to the food, an oven cannot make the food radioactive. Thus the absorbed dose does not make food radioactive. 

Something can be made radioactive by subjecting it to a type of radiation with specific qualities that can affect the nucleus of an atom. To avoid these, the FDA has limited the sources for irradiation that can be used on foods
. Specifically four different types of radiation: 
1). Cobalt-60 -
A radioactive element that produces two gamma photons with discrete (cannot be changed) energies of 1.17 and 1.33 MeV. (Million electron Volts)

2). Cesium-137 -
A radioactive element that produces one gamma photon with a discrete energy of 0.662 MeV.

3). Accelerated Electrons (Electron Beam) -
Made in a machine that accelerates electrons (beta particles) to an energy not to exceed 10 MeV.

4). X-rays -
Generated by taking accelerated electrons, which are not to exceed 7.5 MeV, and converting them into x-rays. (X-rays and gamma photons, at the same MeV, are identical. The only difference is how they are created.)

The qualities of the radiation and not the quantities of radiation will determine if something is made radioactive. To assure that food is not made radioactive, the FDA has limited the process to only four sources of radiation as described .
Russell Stein 
Fresh imported crabmeat blamed for multi-state Vibrio outbreak; Food Safety News  (): 
Fresh crabmeat, which surprisingly is still being exported from the failed socialist state of Venezuela, has sickened 12 people in three states and the District of Columbia with  Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections. Four of the ill have required hospitalization.

The reason that the fresh crabmeat exports are at least somewhat of a surprise is that most Venezuelan fishermen report they are surviving only because a barter economy has replaced cash sales in a country where shortages are profound and include the severe scarcity of food and medicine.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now warning consumers not to eat fresh crab meat if there is any possibility it originated in Venezuela.

Food contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus looks smells and tastes normal. Anyone who purchases fresh crab meat and does not know its origin should throw in a way because it might be from Venezuela.

In addition to CDC, the multi-state outbreak is being investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state and local health officials.

Public health investigators are using the  PulseNetsystem to help identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC. 

DNA fingerprinting is performed on Vibrio bacteria isolated from ill people by using techniques called  pulsed-field gel electrophoresis(PFGE) and  whole genome sequencing(WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks. WGS gives a more detailed DNA fingerprint than PFGE.

As of July 12, 2018, 12 people infected with Vibrio parahaemolyticus who ate fresh crab meat have been reported from 3 states and the District of Columbia. A list of the states and the number of cases in each can be found on the  Case Count Map page. WGS showed that available isolates from people in this outbreak are closely related genetically. This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are likely to share a common source of infection.

Additional ill people associated with this outbreak include people who reported eating crab meat and who had a diagnostic test showing they were infected with Vibrio, which may or may not be the species Vibrio parahaemolyticus.
Illnesses started on dates ranging from April 1, 2018, to July 3, 2018. Ill people range from 26 to 69 years, with a median age of 54. Among ill people, 67 percent are female. Four people (33 percent) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

This outbreak can be illustrated by a chart showing the number of people who became ill each day. This chart is called an epidemic curve or epi curve. 
Some illnesses might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of 2 to 4 weeks. For a more detailed explanation, see the  Timeline for Reporting Cases of Salmonella Infection, which is similar for reporting of Vibrio cases.
Investigation of the Outbreak

Epidemiologic evidenceindicates that crab meat labeled as fresh or precooked imported from Venezuela is a likely source of this outbreak. The investigation into the source is ongoing.

Public health officials in Marylandfirst detected this outbreak when they identified Vibrio infections among people who ate crab meat.

FDA and regulatory officials in Maryland traced back the source of the crab meat from the restaurants and grocery stores where ill people bought crab meat. Preliminary evidence gathered in this investigation showed that the crab meat was imported from Venezuela.

Based on the information available at this time, CDC recommends that consumers not eat, restaurants not serve, and retailers do not sell precooked fresh crabmeat imported from Venezuela until further notice. This type of product may be labeled as fresh or precooked. It is commonly found in plastic containers. Food contaminated with Vibrio usually looks, smells, and tastes normal.

This investigation is ongoing. FDA and state regulatory officials are working to determine the distribution of imported crab meat and if it was sold in other states. CDC will provide updates when more information is available.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News,  click here.)

Turkey industry reviews Salmonella controls amid outbreak ;; By Susan Kelly (July 20, 2018)
Ground Turkey has been a significant source of Salmonella outbreaks. Irradiation has the potential to make raw ground turkey safer.
The National Turkey Federation (NTF) on July 19 said its members are cooperating fully with the CDC-USDA investigation into an  outbreak of Salmonella-tied to raw turkey products that has sickened 90 people across 26 states since November.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  announced Thursday that raw turkey from a variety of sources was contaminated with Salmonella Reading, based on epidemiologic and laboratory evidence. The outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products and live turkeys, the agency said.

Industry responds
"Our members are individually reviewing their Salmonella control programs in all phases of turkey production as well as working collectively through NTF to address this and all strains of Salmonella," the NTF said in a statement emailed to Meatingplace.

In response to a Meatingplaceinquiry, Butterball spokeswoman Christa Leupen said the company is aware of the CDC's announcement about its investigation into the link between Salmonella Reading and raw turkey products.   "We feel it is important to note that no specific product, brand, facility or company has been linked to the illnesses, and the CDC is not advising people to avoid consuming turkey products," Leupen said in an email.

A Cargill spokeswoman said the company has not been notified that the specific strain of Salmonella Reading linked to the outbreak was found in any of its products. 
"Nevertheless, Cargill continuously takes steps to control any incidence or level of all types of Salmonella, regardless of the serotype or strain. This includes subjecting 100 percent of our ground turkey to a test and hold procedure. In this process, we isolate products that have high levels of any type of Salmonella and do not allow distribution to consumers in the raw state," the company said in a statement sent to Meatingplace.

Rick Williamson, a spokesman for Hormel, which sells the Jennie-O Turkey Store brand, also emphasized that no specific source of the outbreak has been identified in the investigation thus far. "During the production process, we work closely with the USDA to ensure our food is safe before it leaves our USDA-inspected facilities and arrives in the meat case at local retailers," Williamson said in an email.  "We want to assure consumers that turkey is safe to eat, and the best possible way to avoid exposure to foodborne illnesses is to make sure raw turkey and other raw poultry products are handled and cooked properly. It's important to wash hands frequently and cook turkey to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured by a meat thermometer," he said.

Forty people have been hospitalized in the outbreak. No deaths have been reported.
CDC said the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry. Ill people reported eating different types and brands of turkey purchased from many different locations, CDC said. Two ill people lived in a household where raw turkey pet food was fed to pets.

The strain has been identified in samples from raw turkey pet food in Minnesota, from raw turkey products from 19 slaughter and six processing establishments, and from live turkeys from several states. Illnesses started between Nov. 20, 2017 and June 29, 2018. 

Illnesses were reported in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Research Round Table; India:  (August 5, 2018)
MUMBAI: Two recent international peer-reviewed publications pertaining to safety of irradiated foods have been published by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai, India. Their references are as follows. 
1.       Hajare S. N., Tripathi J., and Gautam S*,Lack of induced mutagenesis in E. coli or human lymphoblast cell line upon long-term sub-culturing in medium from irradiated meat. ", , Int. J. Rad. Biol., 2017, 93(12):1364-1372.
2.       Saxena, S., Kumar, S., Tripathi, J. & Gautam, S * (2017). No induced mutagenesis in human lymphoblast cell line and bacterial systems upon their prolonged sub-culturing in irradiated food blended media. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, DOI: 10.1002/jsfa.8686.
This is for your kind information.
For more information contact the following scientist:
Dr. S. Gautam
Scientific Officer (H) & Head, Food Science & Safety Section
Food Technology Division
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
Mumbai, India
E-mail: 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





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