Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
December 2015
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
As 2015 comes to a close, we can reflect upon the success we have had in expanding consumption of food that has been irradiated. As a result of this success, new irradiation facilities are being constructed in many countries. Prospects look very good. I have received many requests for statistics concerning the amount of irradiated food produced, consumed, exported or imported worldwide. I have also been asked to write chapters in publications concerning worldwide consumer acceptance and marketing of irradiated foods. I need your help to assemble current data. Please share information about what is the current situation in your country with me. You can send this to me at Thank you and Happy Holidays.  
FEATURED ARTICLE: Irradiation is the key to help Australia fruit growers expand exports. By Murray Lynch
The predominant interest in food irradiation in Australia and New Zealand is as a phytosanitary treatment to ensure viable insect pests are not exported along with fresh produce. Both countries conducted a government-led public enquiry into food irradiation at the height of public fears of any nuclear related technology.

The predominant interest in irradiation in Australia and New Zealand is as a phytosanitary treatment to ensure that viable insect pests are not exported along with tropical fruit. 
ln 1999 Australia and New Zealand had established Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), a joint body to set food standards. FSANZ Standard 1.5.3 (Irradiation of Food) [23] was established to permit food irradiation subject to application and approval on a case-by-case basis. Adoption of the Standard ensured consistency with the strong support of both countries for trade rules to be based on science and the
recommendations of the recognized international bodies for food (Codex and the International Plant Protection Commission, IPPC).
In 2003 FSANZ approved 9 tropical fruits that could be irradiated up to 1 kGy for a phytosanitary purpose. As of now, 23 fresh produce items have FSANZ approval. The original (1980-1990s) opposition to irradiated food was significantly reduced when it was made clear that labelling would ensure that consumers would have the choice whether or not to purchase.
Current Situation:
All Australian states and territories approved the use of irradiation as a market access treatment under a new Interstate Assurance Agreement (ICA - 55). This allows any approved commodity to be irradiated as a phytosanitary treatment to gain market access. As a result of these efforts, the volume of irradiated produce in the marketplace has grown significantly. (See table). 
History of Australian irradiated produce exports
The Australian Food Regulators FSANZ, have now approved 23 commodities for irradiation; tomato, capsicum, table grape, cherry, strawberry, zucchini, nectarine, rock melon, honeydew, apricot, apple, peach, plum and tropical fruits (mango, lychee, papaya), for both the Australian domestic and New Zealand market.

The "Fit for Treatment" protocol was developed as a Steritech in-house quality system, for receiving and processing fresh produce. This has improved the quality standard of fresh produce delivered and insures the cold chain is always monitored and maintained. 

The USDA have approved Steritech's Queensland facility and irradiated Australian mangoes and lychees can now be exported to the U.S.
Indonesia approved 44 Australian varieties of fresh produce for irradiation and Vietnam has approved oranges, mandarin and table grapes in 2015.

Steritech's irradiation facility is key to increased fruit exports.
Preliminary facility audits were also conducted at Steritech's Queensland facility by both Thai and Taiwanese Government officials, in order to start negotiations for facility approval.

Australia has created a successful model that other countries can and should replicate.  The following links will be useful to expand the use of irradiation as a tool to expand markets for irradiated produce and increase the safety of our food.
Link to Australia's Consumer Education Position Paper here.  
Link to Australia's Nutrition Position Paper here...
Link to FDA's Food Facts Brochure
Learn more about Steritech ...
Irradiation in Australia pdf
MYTH of the MONTH: "It would take a huge dose of radiation, much more than is needed, to actually make food radioactiveBy 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.
Link to article...
Russell N. Stein
Brisbane irradiation facility ready for Australia's first big season of mango deliveries to USA, as horticulture searches for new export option; Rural; (November 29, 2015): 
BRISBANE: Australia's only irradiation facility with approval for exports to the United States is ready for its first big season of mango deliveries.

Irradiation is a technique used to sterilise fruit fly and other insects before products are exported. Brisbane company Steritech earned the American approval in January, becoming one of just eight accredited facilities around the world.

"The approvals came at the end of the last mango season, so there were only two [small] consignments sent," general manager Glenn Robertson said. "It was good that they had that opportunity to test that market, but this season will be a really interesting test to see how much volume goes. "I think the first consignment is set to be exported out at the end of this month. "They are all going to be airfreight [and] it will be a consignment which will be about 6 tonnes.

"We'd be happy and I think the exporters would be happy with a couple of hundred tonnes going over to that American market this season." Mr Robertson was speaking at an Australian Horticultural Exporters Association seminar in Bowen, North Queensland.

Irradiation has helped Australian mango exports increase dramatically. The US is major market.
The seminar gave growers a chance to hear from experts on the key issues affecting the export of Australian fruit and vegetables.

The Bowen region is Australia's biggest winter producer of vegetables, such as tomatoes and capsicums. It also produces tropical fruits, including mangoes.

Euri Gold Farm owner Dale Williams is one of those who could benefit from access to a United States-approved irradiation facility.

He has been exporting to other countries for four years, although he estimates about 90 per cent of his mangoes still go to the Australian domestic market.
This year he has received approval to send his mangoes to the United States.
"I think if you can move more fruit into other markets, it smooths out the peaks where you might get oversupply in the peak of your season," he said. "If you can move fruit into other areas [during those peaks] then your potential to maintain viable prices in your domestic market is increased."

The Steritech facility also has approval to send lychees to the United States and Mr Robertson hopes to send around 60 tonnes of that fruit this season.
Searching for New Opportunities:

The seminar in Bowen covered several topics the region's growers will need to contend with, particularly market access negotiations and biosecurity requirements.
Although Bowen produces about $450 million worth of fruit and vegetables per year, it does not send much to foreign markets.
Australian Horticultural Exporters Association executive director Michelle Christou said opportunities could be starting to open.

Searching for new opportunities:
The seminar in Bowen covered several topics the region's growers will need to contend with, particularly market access negotiations and biosecurity requirements.
Although Bowen produces about $450 million worth of fruit and vegetables per year, it does not send much to foreign markets.

Australian Horticultural Exporters Association executive director Michelle Christou said opportunities could be starting to open.

"In the past we have had a very strong domestic market for our fruit and vegetables and only about 10 per cent of that has been exported," she said.
"With our dollar [falling in value] we have become more competitive in the Asian marketplace and that's where the opportunity lies."

Ms Christou said a major step forward could be taken if air freight access into Asian markets was increased - something the industry and government were already working on.

"Our main point of difference in the Asian marketplace is the fact that we can get produce there overnight," she said. "We've got direct air freight routes that are cost effective, so during periods where there is a week or two-week gap where we can get higher prices than during the rest of the year, we can justify concentrating on the export market and bringing greater returns."

Bolivia to begin construction of First Nuclear Complex; Telesur (November 10, 2015)
The US$300 million project will include a nuclear reactor, which the government claims will not harm the environment.
Russia and Bolivia have signed a US$300 million project which will include a nuclear irradiator to process food and other items. 
The US$300 million project will include a nuclear reactor, which the government claims will not harm the environment.  

The government's first choice to build the US$300 million complex, in the town of Mallasilla south of La Paz, was universally rejected by politicians and locals, forcing President Evo Morales to abandon the site and look elsewhere as quickly as possible. The new 20 hectare site in La Paz's sprawling city of El Alto ticked all the boxes. Its remote location means there's not as many locals to object to the project, and the site has plenty of space, if little else. 

The hour drive from La Paz took us far away from the hustle and bustle of the city to a rural backwater with unpaved roads and the most basic of infrastructure. But in five years time the government will transform this derelict, abandoned site into a shiny new nuclear research center, the first nuclear project in Bolivian history. Residents in District 8, as the area is known, can hardly believe their luck. 

As we arrived, a local leader was excitedly taking a group of residents around the site and explaining the benefits that are sure to come with the construction of the new center. "We do not fear any radiation," Henry Fernandez, president of the District 8 Urbanization group, told teleSUR. "We have been reassured by experts from the universities and from the Minister for Energy that the center poses us no health risks." District 8 is an impoverished neighborhood in El Alto. Located well off the beaten track, the site was once used as a storage facility and a place to grow plants and vegetables. But there are high hopes that the nuclear center will transform the fortunes of the area. "We have absolutely nothing here," Felisa Alvarez, a young mother, told teleSUR. "I'm in favor of this project because it will give us everything, new roads, running water, shops and restaurants," she said. The El Alto nuclear complex will include a research reactor, built with Russian technology and help from Argentina. President Morales has said the center will also include a cyclotron for radiopharmaceuticals and a multi-purpose gamma irradiation plant.  

Sterigenics International and Nordion welcome landmark agreement from Bruce Power and Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator to extend the life of six reactors, enabling continued long-term supply of Cobalt-60; CNW Newswire (December 4, 2015): 
Cobalt-60 is essential to the global healthcare community and this announcement showcases Ontario's continued leadership in gamma sterilization.

TORONTODec. 4, 2015 /CNW/ - Sterigenics International LLC and subsidiary Nordion welcome the joint announcement from Bruce Power and Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to refurbish six of Ontario's nuclear reactors.  This announcement helps to secure long-term supply of Cobalt-60, a critical sterilization solution that benefits healthcare patients at home and around the world.

"We are delighted by today's announcement and we congratulate both Bruce Power and the Government of Ontario on reaching a milestone agreement which helps us in securing a long-term, stable supply of Cobalt-60 right here in Ontario," said Scott McIntosh, President, Gamma Technologies & Corporate Services, at Nordion. "In today's world, in which the spread of disease is discussed daily, we are reminded how critical it is to have sterile medical products to mitigate risk to patients and the healthcare community."

"This is a tremendous development," said Michael Mulhern, CEO, Sterigenics International LLC. "The ultimate beneficiaries are the more than 200 million people around the world who require sterilized medical devices for medical procedures each year."

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates more than 640,000 major surgeries are performed each day around the world. Sterilized disposable medical products are used in virtually all of these procedures. Cobalt-60 is supplied to over 200 gamma irradiators in 55 countries that sterilize surgical gloves, gowns, masks, syringes, sutures, catheters, pharmaceuticals, implants and tissue, as well as several products used in the food and consumer products industries (Source: International Atomic Energy Agency).

"Ontario is a leader in the global nuclear industry and today's announcement further secures its position for the long term," added McIntosh. "It also responds to the increasing needs around the globe for our clients and patients."

With Ontario's Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP) fully implemented, when the life extension and refurbishment of the Bruce B reactors are completed, these units would operate to approximately 2065, enabling an even longer-term extension of the current Cobalt-60 supply contract between Bruce Power and Nordion. This announcement complements Nordion and Bruce Power's long-term relationship which in the recent past has generated two major agreements; in October 2014, the companies announced a multi-year agreement up to an additional 14-years to provide supply of Cobalt-60. More recently, in October 2015, they announced a Memorandum of Understanding for the supply of High Specific Activity ("HSA") Cobalt-60, also referred to as medical-grade Cobalt. . More information on these announcements may be found at
South Africa Avocado Season Comes to End; Eurofruit; (November 17, 2015)
The South African avocado export season is just about over with final volumes fall short of last year's crop.  The country will have shipped some 12.7m cartons of avocados this season, once the last consignments of the year arrive in Europe in about two weeks. This is short of the 2014 export volume of 15.2m cartons, but the industry says it is, nevertheless, a good performance in an off-year. Export volumes were always due to fall short of last year's numbers, but a rise in fruit produced in new orchards boosted the crop.

"This is still a good performance and is due to the growth the industry is experiencing," said Derek Donkin of subtropical industry body Subtrop. While growers in the north of the country will be concluding their harvest, growers in the Southern Cape will continue to supply the local market. Orchards in this region harvest their fruit very late, and this is one of the reasons that the industry is able to supply the market for a much longer into the traditional import season from Spain and Israel.

South Africa exported 12.7m cartons of avocados in 2015. Irradiation is required for export of South African avocados to the US. 
Meanwhile, the lychee export season has started, with predictions that the industry will ship around 1m 2kg cartons this year. "Prospects are more or less the same as last year," Donkin explained. However, the industry will be able to ship fruit to the US for the first time due to a new protocol agreement concluded between the two governments.

"Import licenses into the US were issued recently and we expect some air shipments this year," noted Donkin.

Similar to the protocol for Sharon Fruit, the lychees will have to be irradiated near Miami in the US before they can be released for marketing. Donkin added that the fruit will benefit from the US Growth and Opportunities Act which will mean that it will be imported duty free into the country.

This benefit maybe short lived, however, because of the possibility that South African agricultural products may soon be excluded from the AGOA agreement, due of a continued spat between the two countries' meat and poultry producers. If South Africa is excluded, it will also be a severe setback for citrus exporters to the US.
Unsafe food costs Ghana US$69 million annually; BarfBlog;  (December 8, 2015)
Ghana recently opened an irradiation facility that will help make food safer. 
ACCRA: Ghana Web reports that food safety expert, Mr John Oppong-Otoo, has chastised the government for its failure to carry out sustained exposure assessments on food to ascertain the level of risk for all contaminants in food they consume.

Though exposure assessment has been done elsewhere in Ghana it is said to be limited, largely due to the unavailability of funds to carry out the research.
According to Mr Oppong-Otoo, who is also the CODEX Alimentarius Manager at the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), the risks associated with consuming unsafe food should prompt government to commission such a research.

"When we do the exposure assessments, we find out the levels that Ghanaians are exposed to. Then we compare it with a certain health-based value. If the exposure is higher then there is risk. An exposure assessment will form the basis of a risk management programme," he said at a workshop on food safety for selected journalists in Accra.

The total number of outpatients reported cases of foodborne diseases in Ghana is about 420,000 per year, with an annual death rate estimated at 65,000 and total cost to the economy at US$69 million.
Link to Article ...
Also in the News: Sixth Annual Chapman Phytosanitary Conference (March 23-24, 2016):

Sponsored by Chapman University, the USDA and the FAO/IAEC at offered at NO CHARGE.
To register or learn more about the conference click here ... 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 
Ronald F. Eustice | 13768 Trost Trail | Savage, | MN | 55378





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