Food Irradiation Updates
Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored by GRAY*STAR Inc.
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:
Fifty years after the Space age began, it
is time to examine the effects of spaceflight on society. One of the
most important impacts of the Space program has been in the area of food
safety and shelf life stabilization. Almost from the beginning of the
Space program, irradiation has been at the core. We have much to be
thankful for and we can be grateful that NASA and Pillsbury saw the
value of food irradiation. Indeed food irradiation is one of the most
effective tools we have to improve the security of our food supply.
Let's hope that the full potential of irradiation will be realized in
the years ahead.
FEATURED ARTICLE: High-flying Turkey on Station Crew's Thanksgiving Menu; Klaus Schmidt (November 25, 2014)
By Klaus Schmidt
Astronauts on the International Space Station enjoyed a tweaked version of the traditional Thanksgiving menu.
most of the US roasted turkeys and splooshed cranberry sauce out of
cans, the astronauts aboard the International Space Station floating
high above the Earth, enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal of their very own out
While most Americans are
roasting turkeys and emptying cranberry sauce out of cans, the station
crew will be cutting open bags of freeze-dried, irradiated and
Their menu will
include traditional holiday fare with a space-food flair - irradiated
smoked turkey, thermostabilized candied yams and freeze-dried green
beans and mushrooms. The meal also will feature NASA's own freeze-dried
cornbread dressing - just add water. Dessert features thermostabilized
The space station
Expedition 42 crew is made up of Commander Barry "Butch" Wilmore of
NASA, Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA, Flight Engineers Anton
Shkaplerov, Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of Russia's
Roscosmos and Italian Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the
European Space Agency.
Station food generally
resembles that, for the most part, flown in space since the inception
of the Space Shuttle Program some 30 years ago. NASA is researching and
developing ways to extend the shelf-life of food needed for deep space
missions, such as those to Mars, and to minimize the volume of
packaging. The agency also is using the International Space Station as a
laboratory to learn how to grow plants, such as lettuce, in space.
Future crew members
spending Thanksgiving in space may have one traditional staple, fresh
sweet potatoes. The sweet potato may be one of the crops chosen for
crews to grow on deep space missions. It provides an important energy
source - carbohydrate - as well as beta-carotene.
The sweet potato is
able to adapt to a controlled environment with artificial sunlight. It
is highly adaptable to a variety of vine-training architectures. The
main shoot tip, or the end of the main vine, is the only really
sensitive part. It sends hormones throughout the plant that stimulate
root development, which is important since it is the roots that become
the sweet potatoes. The side shoots, if picked when young, are tender
and can be eaten in salads, improving the plant's usefulness.
Scientists believe most
food items in the transit food system on future deep space missions
will resemble those used on the station. Advanced processing and
packaging methods will be needed to provide extended shelf lives and
improved nutrition for the longer missions. Stored food and salad crops
will be used in the early stages of planetary stays until permanent
living bases are constructed.
Link to Article...
Safer Thanksgiving in Space thanks to irradiation ; By Ben Chapman; Barf Blog (November 27, 2014):
to the food safety historians (and every HACCP class) the world of
food safety was revolutionized by a partnership between NASA and
Jennifer Ross-Nazzal writes about the history in Societal Impact of Space Flight.
Concerned about safety,
NASA engineers specified that the food could not crumble, thereby
floating into instrument panels or contaminating the capsule's
atmosphere. to meet the outlined specifications, food technologists at
Pillsbury developed a compressed food bar with an edible coating to
prevent the food from breaking apart. in addition to processing food
that would not damage the capsule's electronics, the food also had to
be safe for the astronauts to consume.
Almost immediately food
scientists and microbiologists determined that the assurance of food
safety was a problem. [Pillsbury microbiologist Howard] Bauman recalled
that it was nearly impossible for companies to guarantee that the food
manufactured for the astronauts was uncontaminated.
"We quickly found by
using standard methods of quality control there was absolutely no way
we could be assured there wouldn't be a problem," he said. To determine
food safety for the flight crews, manufacturers had to test a large
percentage of their finished products, which involved a great deal of
expense and left little for the flights.
So HACCP was created.
According to The Telegraph,
American astronauts on the International Space Station are enjoying a
risk-reduced and HACCP-inspired Thanksgiving meal including irradiated
NASA Astronauts Terry
Virts and Barry Wilmore cobbled together a festive feast by combining
foods that are stocked on the station.
The meal also includes candied yams, freeze-dried dressing, cranapple desert, mashed potatoes, green beans and mushrooms.
Crew members get
'bonus containers' in which they are allowed to carry special items for
specific holidays, like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
"The turkey they
have available for Thanksgiving has been made shelf-stable by
irradiation," said Vickie Kloeris, ISS Food System Manager
"So this product is ready to eat and they just warm it up and eat out of a packet with a fork.
Mine is still roasting.
Link to article...
MYTH of the MONTH by Russell Stein
term "Food Irradiation" has no practical meaning. "Food" is not
irradiated. However, specific products, which are consumed as
food, are irradiated for specific purposes.
A company that
produces ground beef purchases an irradiator. Their plan is to
irradiate their final packaged product to minimize the health threat of
food borne pathogens for their customers. Do they become a Food
Irradiation company? No, they are still a Meat Processing company.
A foreign company
installs an irradiator to irradiate fruit for export to the United
States. The purpose of the irradiator is to disinfest mangoes to
assure that there are no viable insect pests that may potentially harm
US crops. Are they a Food Irradiation company? No, they are a
I want to have
hamburgers tonight. I am going to go to my favorite market.
There I am going to look for hamburger patties. Personally, I
prefer the added safety assurance of purchasing irradiated patties, so
if they have both irradiated and non-irradiated hamburgers in stock, I
will purchase the irradiated burgers. If they only have
non-irradiated hamburgers for sale, I will still purchase them even if
they do have irradiated mangoes on their shelves. I am not going
to the store to buy "irradiated food". I am going to the store to
buy hamburgers...and perhaps a can of creamed succotash.
Link to Article...
Russell N. Stein
Irradiated beef deemed safe, favored by those who prefer rare hamburgers
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Food irradiation is designed to reduce the risk of foodborne illness and preserve food.
Irradiated Beef Video...
to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, like pasteurizing milk and
canning fruits and vegetables, "irradiation can make food safer for the
|Robert Ralyea, PhD.
, a senior extension
associate with Cornell University's food science department, said he
believes the technology is sound. "People have been eating irradiated
food for a long time and they probably don't even know it," said Ralyea.
FDA is responsible for regulating the sources of radiation. The agency
states that only after it "has determined that irradiating the food is
safe" is a source of radiation approved for use on foods.
food that NASA astronauts eat has been sterilized by irradiation to
avoid getting foodborne illness in space, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
resident Jack Connors is convinced that irradiation is a plus when it
comes to grilling a juicier burger. "It gives a little more taste to it.
You don't have to burn it to enjoy it," said Connors as he was
selecting a package of burgers at Wegmans on McKinley Parkway.
Robert Gravani, a professor of food science at Cornell University, calls it a safe process that produces a good product. "Yes,
it is safe. The food, and I want to make this point very, very clear.
The food is not and cannot become radioactive," said Gravani. "The
safety has been assured by many, many government agencies in the U.S.
and around the world."
|Robert Gravani PhD.
process involves exposing foods to radiant energy, like gamma rays,
electron beams and x-rays. The FDA states that irradiation can be used
to "effectively eliminate organisms that cause foodborne illness, such
as Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli)."
"The one that's used for ground beef is accelerated electrons," added Gravani. "It destroys their DNA. It causes their cell membranes to leak and the bacteria die."
FDA states on its website, that irradiation does not make foods
radioactive, compromise nutritional quality, or noticeably change the
taste, texture, or appearance of food. The agency states: "In fact, any
changes made by irradiation are so minimal that it is not easy to tell
if a food has been irradiated."
think that there are still a number of consumers out there who have an
issue with the process," added Gravani. "And I think like everything
else once people understand what it is, how it works, and they
understand a little bit more about the safety of it, and the science
behind it, they'll recognize that this is a safe and efficacious
for example, makes all of its specialty burgers from irradiated ground
beef. "You're targeting E.coli and salmonella," said Kelly Schoeneck,
vice president of meat and seafood merchandising for Wegmans. "So
customers can enjoy a medium rare or rare burger and not have to worry
about it." Schoeneck says the beef is ground at one plant and then sent
to Sadex Corporation, in Iowa where it's irradiated.
an electronic beam. It's like a big tunnel, and then it comes out and
gets back on the trucks and ships to the stores," she added. Irradiation
should not replace proper food-handling practices. Just think of it as
an added layer of protection.
precisely the way consumer Jack Connors sees it."If I usually cook a
regular burger, I'll cook it to pretty much well done. But this I don't
have to worry about cooking it as well done," said Connors.
One in six
Americans will become sick from foodborne illness every year. Often it's
because food hasn't been cooked to the proper temperature.
Link to article...
Onion irradiation trial likely from next summer; The Times of India (November 27, 2014):
Irradiation of onions, potatoes, garlic and other foods can significantly increase shelf-life
INDIA: The Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB)
is planning to experiment with irradiation of onions from next
summer to enhance its quality and shelf life.
is already an irradiation centre at Lasalgaon for irradiation of
agricultural commodities. Currently, the MSAMB is irradiating mangoes
before exporting the fruits to the US. The MSAMB is also planning to
propagate irradiation of onions among farmers after experiments.
Speaking to TOI, an MSAMB official said,
"The summer onions are generally stored by the farmers as the commodity
grown in the rabi season has a good shelf life. The summer crop, which
is harvested in March and April, can be stored up to September. But it
develops sprouts and the weight is also reduced up to 30% during the
storage. The shelf life of onions increases if the crops are irradiated.
Keeping this in mind, we are planning to make experiments on both
irradiated and non-irradiate onions to check the effect on the quality.
We will find out how much shelf life of irradiated onions increases,
whether the irradiated onions get sprouted after five six months and how
much is the loss in weight."
He further said, "If the weight loss in
irradiated onions after six months is 10 per cent and they do not get
sprouted. Then it can be a win-win situation for the farmers. Hence, we
will make experiments on irradiated and non-irradiated onions from
April next year. We select seven to eight farmers and make experiments
on their onions. If the experiment is successful, we will propagate
irradiation of onions among farmers."
As per the norms of USA, irradiation of
mangoes is mandatory before exporting those to the US. Accordingly, the
Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) has taken up
irradiation of mangoes from the 2007-08 financial year. In the season
during 2014-15, the Lasalgaon irradiation centre has irradiated 295
metric tonnes of mangoes for export to USA.
The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
(BARC) had set up the irradiation centre - Krushak (Krushi Utpadan
Sanrakshan Kendra) at Lasalgaon - to irradiate the agricultural
commodities for their preservation in 2002. The Lasalgoan facility is
commercially operated by the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing
Board (MSAMB) as part of a memorandum of understanding signed by BARC,
Board of Radiation and Isotope Technolo
gy and MSAMB. Link to article...
CHENNAI, INDIA: Ever wondered how the insect got inside the mango seed or the worms in a
sealed packet of wheat flour? Well, they were born there. The mother
laid eggs on the mango flowers, or on the flour before it was packed.
The food we
consume has these unwanted organic matters in lots, not to speak of
microbes. This is also why fruits and vegetables rot. The
way to combat this menace is, of course, to kill them. The traditional
Indian method has been to sun-dry everything. We even put up beds on the
roofs to get rid of the bugs.
However, a more modern way is to irradiate stuff to sterilise them. Providing
irradiation services is good business and the Board of Radiation &
Isotope Technology (BRIT), part of the Department of Atomic Energy, is
trying to develop entrepreneurs who would take up this business.
India has 15 such irradiation facilities today-woefully inadequate for a country of its size.
Three of the 15
are owned by BRIT, which operates them on not-for-profit basis. These
three are reference plants for high, medium and low dose radiation -
high for sterilisation of medicines and syringes, medium for the likes
of spices, pet feed and cosmetics and low for onion, potatoes, to
prevent them from sprouting.
The other 12
are owned by industries and entrepreneurs. Dr A K Kohli, Chief Executive
of BRIT, says that the Board is working towards raising the number to
at least 50 by 2020. BRIT also provides radio-active isotopes for
industrial applications such as non-destructive testing, testing for
leaks in pipes and cracks in columns and radio-medicine. The Board earns
Rs. 80 crore a year selling these, again, on not-for-profit basis.
irradiation facilities for third party use is good business, says Dr
Kohli. It seems so, going by the experience of Universal Medicare Ltd,
which owns two such facilities in Gujarat. Eight years back, the company
set up its first unit of a capacity of 1,000 KCi (kilo curies, which is
a measure of radiation) at a cost of Rs. 6 crore. "Twenty-five per cent
for our own use, and 75 per cent for outsiders," says Jagdish Patel,
Managing Director of Universal Medicare. Today, the business fetches
profits of Rs. 5-6 crore a year, Patel told Business Line. Two months
ago, Patel started his second unit, in Gujarat.
substances 'decay', or lose their power, about 1 per cent a month. So
these units will have to keep adding 'pencils' (in which form isotopes
such as Cobalt 60 or Iridium 192 are supplied). It costs Rs. 65 lakh for
In future, food safety requirements will make irradiation
mandatory, observes Dr Kohli. Exports of foods to the developed
countries will surely require irradiation and the mangoes that go to the
US first pass through the rays. Irradiation also enhances shelf-life of
foods, so farmers can store them till they get better prices. "You can
process 20 tonnes of onions per hour and it will cost 20 paise per kg,"
Dr Kohli said. Link to article...
|foodirradiation.org is an excellent source of information on food irradiation.
irradiation is a cold pasteurization process that will do for meats,
produce, and other foods what thermal pasteurization did for milk
Ronald F. Eustice, Consultant