Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
December  2017
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 
Food that has been irradiated is becoming increasingly available at retail stores. Within the past few months we have spotted the Radura symbol on several food items from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Shores. We are pleased with the progress and have learned somethings along the way. 1). Consumers buy products, not technology. People buy a product because they want the product and not because a particular technology has been used to improve the product. 2). We are seeing negligible if any "push-back" on irradiated food at retail. The vast majority of consumers don't care and those that do care become increasingly supportive when they understand that irradiation is a USDA/FDA approved process endorsed by virtually every health and scientific group in the world to make food safer or protect our agriculture from unwanted pests. Good News!

Featured Article: Great Things Are Happening at Gateway in Gulfport.   By Ronald F. Eustice
Ryan Hollingsworth of Gateway at left and members of the Gateway team.
Food Irradiation Update publisher Ron Eustice is at rig
We are hearing and reading much more about food irradiation these days and much of that news is coming from Gulfport, Mississippi. Recently I spoke with Frank Benso, President of Gateway America. Here's an update:

Four years ago, the USDA/APHIS certified Gateway America as a food irradiation treatment facility to eliminate unwanted pests in imported and exported fruits and vegetables. Since then, the growth has been dramatic and Gateway has expanded their services and client base In addition to produce, Gateway is approved to irradiate red meat, poultry, oysters, crustaceans and certain other types of seafood to reduce harmful bacteria to non-detectable levels.

A key component of the Gateway program is a partnership with Bonamar, a leading seafood company  based in Medley, Florida to launch a new product line that is marketed nationally as ES (Extended Safety) crab meat products. Gateway America, Gulfport, Mississippi, is a Primus Labs Certified Food Safety facility that is processing Bonamar's crab meat under USFDA supervision. 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in 2014, approved irradiation of shellfish to kill harmful pathogens. The decision to approve irradiation of seafood products was at the request of the National Fisheries Institute. FDA conducted a thorough food safety assessment that determined that irradiation poses no adverse health risks and does not destroy nutrients. The rule applies to raw, frozen, cooked, partially cooked, shelled or dried crustaceans. It also covers cooked or ready-to-cook crustaceans processed with spices or small amounts of other food ingredients. 
Irradiation using the GRAY*STAR GENESIS irradiator is the key component of the Gateway America program.
Currently Gateway is working with FDA to obtain approval of irradiation of fin fish, including salmon and tilapia as well as shrimp.

The USDA has established Framework Equivalency Work Plans (FEWPs) with more than a dozen countries to increase fruit and vegetable trade. Irradiation is a key component of the strategy and is often a mandatory requirement for the import of certain fruit into the US. 

Oysters arrive daily during the harvest season for irradiation at Gateway America.
Food irradiation is a required phytosanitary treatment for many commodities such as guavas from Mexico, dragon fruit from Vietnam, mangoes from India and Pakistan and many others. FEWP 
agreements are signed with the understanding that both signatory countries  are willing to receive products from each others countries. Gateway has irradiated blueberries destined for India and the United Arab Emirates. Currently there great interest in the export of US produce to Mexico.
Consumers want imported fruit, but local farmers and government agencies don't want foreign pests that hitch-hike on the fruit and threaten our agriculture. At stake is the multi-billion dollar US produce industry. "Disaster is only one cargo container away," says Benso. Harmful pests such as weevils and borers hitch-hiking on imported fruit and vegetables could cost the produce industry billions.

Countries including Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Grenada, Dominican Republic, Pakistan, Republic of South Africa have signed or are in the process of finalizing  FEWPs with USDA. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, and Honduras are eager to establish the same arrangement with USDA to expand commercial opportunities. Gateway America is leading the charge by working closely with each of these countries to help them move forward. 

As more irradiated meat and produce becomes available at retail and food service, Benso believes consumers will be increasingly accepting of the process. Omaha Steaks, Schwans and Wegmans have marketed irradiated ground beef since 2000 with negligible consumer "push back."
The future is extremely bright for irradiation of meat and poultry. Benso says, "Irradiation will eventually become the preferred technology to enhance current Best Manufacturing Practices to make our food safer.
Recalls are the wake up calls to the industry and Benso believes that retail chains will eventually require processors to use irradiation on certain foods as the ultimate assurance of food safety.
Benso says, "The benefits of irradiation for the elimination of "pests of concern" along with the elimination of harmful bacteria to "non-detectable" levels without altering the taste, nutritional values or appearance of the commodities we have irradiated are providing positive results and that word is spreading.... the future is here!"   
Ronald F. Eustice, the author of this article has been involved in the commercial introduction of irradiated foods since 1997 while he was serving as executive director, Minnesota Beef Council. During the past 20 years, Eustice has spoken at food safety conferences in more than 30 US states and ten countries regarding consumer acceptance of irradiated food in the marketplace. Contact Ron Eustice at

MYTH of the MONTH: "Irradiation destroys essential vitamins and other nutrients." By Russell Stein
"Irradiation destroys essential vitamins and other nutrients."
This statement is incorrect. Although irradiation can reduce some vitamins and other nutrients, it does not destroy them nor significantly alter the amount of nutrients relative to the total diet of the consumer.  

Food treated by irradiation is generally as nutritious as, or better than, the same food treated by the conventional familiar processes such as cooking, drying, or freezing. Numerous studies conclude that irradiation has no significant effect on the nutritional value of the macronutrients within foods (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates). Micronutrients, especially certain vitamins, can be reduced by irradiation, but generally these same vitamins are similarly reduced by the other commonly used food processing methods. Even simple storage can lead to major loss of certain vitamins.

The significance of any loss of specific vitamins must be evaluated relative to the role of the irradiated food as a source of that particular vitamin in the diet of the consuming public. This consideration is heavily weighted by the regulatory agencies in their evaluation of petitions for clearance to irradiate any food. The FDA, World Health Organization and the American Dietetic Association have all considered the nutritional aspects of irradiated food and endorsed the process.

An excellent argument can be made that by destroying pathogens in raw food, irradiation allows safer consumption of these foods thereby increasing their overall nutritional value. On August 22, 2008, the FDA approved the use of irradiation on fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce. Their safety review specifically addressed the effects of irradiation on vitamins and nutrients on products often consumed raw. On February 25, 2014 they reaffirmed their conclusion that food irradiation is nutritionally safe:

"In summary, based on the available data and information, FDA concludes that amending the regulations, as set forth below, to allow for the use of ionizing radiation to treat iceberg lettuce and spinach up to a maximum dose of 4 kGs.

Russell Stein 
US to allow imports of fresh mango from Vietnam; Fresh Plaza (December, 2017):
Mangoes from Vietnam will soon be on US grocery shelves thanks to irradiation.
WASHINGTON: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's  Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is amending its regulations to allow the importation of fresh mango fruit from Vietnam into the continental United States.

After analyzing the potential plant pest risks, APHIS scientists determined that mangos from Vietnam can be safely imported under a systems approach.   
The systems approach is a series of measures taken by growers, packers, and shippers that, in combination, minimize pest risks prior to importation into the United States.  

In this case, the systems approach for mangos from Vietnam includes orchard or packinghouse requirements, irradiation treatment, and port of entry inspection, to protect against the introduction of plant pests and diseases. 

APHIS is also requiring the mangos be imported in commercial shipments and accompanied by phystosanitary certificates verifying the fruit was produced under these conditions.  The certificates must also include an additional declaration stating the fruit was inspected and found free of black mango spot.

The final rule was published in the Federal Register on November 29, 2017, and will become effective 30 days after publication, or on December 29, 2017.
 Learn more here ...

The Eighth Annual Chapman Phytosanitary Irradiation Forum moves to a new venue for 2018!
Hotel Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao, Bangkok, Thailand
June 13-15, 2018
Organized in cooperation with the USDA, the International Irradiation Association (iia), the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology (TINT) and the Joint programme of the FAO/IAEA, the objective of this Phytosanitary Irradiation forum is to increase understanding of irradiation as a phytosanitary treatment to enhance global trade, to prevent invasive pests and to foster dialogue.

Registration will be available at
Dr. Anuradha Prakash,
Yves Henon,
Carl Blackburn, is an excellent source of information on food irradiation.

Food Irradiation Update is published by Ronald Eustice.  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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