Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
July  2014
Food Irradiation Update is published monthly by Ronald F. Eustice, a food quality & safety assurance consultant based in Minneapolis and Tucson. He can be reached at:
and at 612.202.1016.
Positive media coverage continues to promote the benefits of food irradiation. Most recently WLOX in Gulfport, Mississippi aired a broadcast featuring an interview with the executive director of the Port of Gulfport. The director talked about his recent trip to Central America and how Gateway America, an irradiation facility located at the air cargo facility at the airport is a crucial link for the processing of fresh food products. The executive director said "There's a lot of fruits and vegetables that are not able to come into the United States, unless they are irradiated. The facility we have out there is one of very few in the United States." Good news for Gulfport and good news for irradiation.
Blazing the Trail for Food Irradiation at Gateway America, Gulfport, Mississippi:

Gateway America: Clearing the Path for Food Irradiation

By Ronald F. Eustice

The reason that we're hearing and reading more about food irradiation these days is because much is happening.

Pakistan Mangoes being irradiated for phytosanitary reasons at Gateway America


Global media has taken a renewed interest in food irradiation because of new USDA and FDA approvals, continuing outbreaks of foodborne illness and growing awareness of food irradiation as an effective phytosanitary treatment for imported fruit. Publicity in many national, international and regional newspapers and on FOX News has increased awareness and kick started the needed dialogue about irradiation as a "food safety" initiative to the industry. 


At the center of this national publicity is an irradiation facility at Gulfport, Mississippi.


A little over a year 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," says Frank Benso, President of Gateway America. Gateway is also approved to irradiate red meat, poultry, oysters, crustaceans and certain other types of seafood to reduce harmful bacteria to non-detectable levels.


Blazing the Trail:

Gateway has cleared the path for overseas companies to export fresh produce to the US using their facility as the headquarters for phytosanitary treatment to eliminate unwanted pests. Many countries, especially in Asia, already have irradiation facilities, however the USDA requirement that US inspectors be present in the country of origin when the produce is irradiated is a stumbling block. By having an irradiation facility at a US port of entry, foreign exporters can reduce expenses by eliminating the need for costly on-site inspection. Gateway's ability to be a US country of origin treatment center to allow American farmers to export to other countries is another distinct advantage.


The list of Gateway customers is growing rapidly. Benso says that Gateway started out with just one base load customer and they are now irradiating perishable food for more than a dozen companies.


Currently, Gateway routinely irradiates oysters from the Gulf Coast; ground beef from the US Heartland; persimmons from South Africa; and mangoes from Pakistan. "Several additional items are on the immediate horizon," adds Benso.


US Consumers want the fruit, but US farmers and the Department of Agriculture don't want the bugs!

South African Persimmons irradiated at Gateway America, Gulfport, MS

International interest in food irradiation is already huge and growing. Ten countries have signed reciprocal trade agreements with the US for produce treated by irradiation for phytosanitary purposes, both import and export.  More are pending.


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 hitchhiking on imported fruit and vegetables could cost the produce industry billions. 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.


Market Acceptance:

The volume of irradiated produce consumed in the United States has grown by over 400 percent since 2006. According to the USDA, in 2012, over 27 million pounds of irradiated produce entered the US. Add an additional 12 million pounds of Hawaiian produce that must be irradiated as an entry requirement into the continental US; the annual total adds up to over 40 million pounds and is growing.

Oyster irradiation at Gateway America.

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!"  Link to article... 

"Can irradiation be used to make spoiled food marketable."

"Irradiation can be used to make spoiled food marketable."



This statement is incorrect.  Irradiation can be used to reduce micro-organisms and in some cases improve certain food qualities, but it cannot make bad food good.


Perishable foods are perishable.  There are different biological reasons for a food to decay over time. 


In perishable foods, spoilage bacteria, molds and yeasts will grow, and in time make the product unappetizing.  Irradiation can be used to significantly reduce, or even eliminate spoilage organisms.  So, the process can be used to slow down or delay spoilage in some foods.  However, it will not reverse the spoilage process.  In general, it is advantageous to irradiate a food as soon as practical after harvesting.  The sooner you retard the foods natural decay, the better the quality of the food.


In the case of foods that may contain pathogenic organisms, irradiation can be used to significantly reduce or eliminate the pathogens.  However, if the food has already spoiled and contains a very high level of pathogens for a long period of time, it is possible that these organisms have already produced toxins.  Irradiation does not have a significant effect on these toxins.  So, in this specific case, it might be effective at killing the pathogen, but will not necessarily make spoiled food, safe.


Some spoilage is due to natural enzymes in the food.  Irradiation does not have an appreciable effect on enzymes.  Food can be irradiated at a very high dose to eliminate all spoilage and pathogenic organisms to make it "shelf stable" (no longer perishable); however, to do so also requires a separate process to inactivate the enzymes such as blanching (heating).  Some of the food consumed by astronauts is heated and then irradiated so that it doesn't spoil and is safe to eat for an indefinite period of time.


Foods, such as fruits and vegetables, decay as part of their natural life cycle.  In selected cases, irradiation can be used to slow down the ripening process.  In the case of potatoes, onions and other tubers, it can be used to inhibit the sprouting process.  For these, the irradiation can be used to extend their marketable life.  It will not reverse the process.   Irradiation might delay the food's natural aging, but it won't make it any younger.


Rotten is rotten.  If you irradiate rotten food, you will end up with irradiated rotten food. 


Russell N. Stein



Pakistani Mangoesmake their way into US households; By Farhan Zaheer; Published in The Express Tribune (June 18th, 2014):

KARACHI: Pakistan has started commercial exports of mangoes to the US - the world's biggest and arguably the most lucrative market of mangoes.

The first consignment of 2.9 tons has already been sold out just within a few hours of reaching stores in Houston and Dallas - the two US cities with a considerable Pakistani Diaspora - while another shipment of six tons is going to be airlifted this week. After covering Houston and Dallas, their next consignment will be directed to New York - the biggest concentration of Pakistani community in the US.

The company behind all this is not a renowned one. In fact, its owners are exporting mangoes to the US for the first time and they have completed all the necessary arrangements - from US import permit certificate to the shipment - within three months.

"It all started when a Pakistani American told my partner three months ago that the Pakistani community wants to taste Pakistani mangoes. And, that he should do something," Farm House Export Director Naveed Nadir told The Express Tribune in an interview. "My partner and I took it as a challenge and we finally succeeded in our goal."

"I think in the past Pakistani exporters did not pursue the right channels to reduce the export costs, which is why no Pakistani exporter succeeded in exporting mangoes to the US markets," said Nadir. The two partners said that they wanted to bring in the best taste of Pakistan mangoes to their customers in the US. "One of the reasons why we have made mango exports feasible in the US is our route through which we are completing the necessary irradiation process in Houston.

"Our cost of irradiation in Houston is just 50 cents per kg compared to the other irradiation facility in Chicago whose price is $5 per kg," he added.

Food irradiation is a promising food safety technology that eliminates disease-causing germs from foods. Since the US authorities want to complete the irradiation process at its facilities, many Pakistani exporters get discouraged in exporting to the US. "We have completed all the safety requirements of the US authorities so we are sure if anyone comply all the required packaging requirement, he or she can also export mangoes to the US," he said.

According to Nadir, the retail price of his 2.5kg mango pack is $25, which is reasonable compared to Indian mangoes available in the market. The retail price of Indian Kesar is $30 per a 3kg pack while the world-renowned Alphonso mangoes are available in $35 per 3kg pack.

Currently, Mexican and other South American mango varieties are widely imported in the United States, along with Indian and Australian mangoes. It is for the first time that Pakistan has got an opportunity to supply the country's mango to the US market.

The USA remains the most important destination for mango exporters, having an annual demand of 200,000 tons.

Farm House Export wants to export over 100 tons of mangoes to the US in this season.

Link to Article...

Port of Gulfport, Mississippi Expanding Business Because of Irradiation Facility; Steve Philips, WLOX TV (June 26, 2014): 

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A recent recruitment trip to Central America is already showing promise for the Port of Gulfport. Port Director Jonathan Daniels told the port authority board this week that potential tenants like what they see.

While the Port of Gulfport continues its ongoing expansion and restoration project, the executive director is looking for future business to fill the new space that's being created. Recently, he called on a trio of countries in Central America.

The director says there's already business development coming from his visit to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

"There's a lot of interest. There's a lot of interest in returning cargo. There's a lot of interest in holding cargo. I'll tell you that much right now, and that's a big part of what we're doing," he said.

Fresh produce is a big product of Central America. And Director Daniels said one big advantage for Gulfport is a local business called Gateway America. Located at the air cargo facility at the airport, it includes irradiation equipment for processing fresh food products.

"There's a lot of fruits and vegetables that are not able to come into the United States, unless they are irradiated. The facility we have out there is one of very few in the United States," said Director Daniels. View Gulfport video...

Pakistani Company Ramps Up Mango Exports By Andy Nelson, The Packer (June 18, 2014)

KARACHI: A Pakistani exporter expects to ship 250 metric tons of mangoes to the U.S.

Pakistani officials announcing plans to market irradiated mangoes to USA.
and Canada this year.

Karachi, Pakistan-based Farm House Export Ltd. expects its North American shipments in 2014 to be worth about $1 million, said Zulfikar Momin, a Farm House official.

Following U.S. Department of Agriculture approval of irradiated mangoes from Pakistan, the country began exporting to the U.S. in 2011. Pakistan India and Thailand, which both began shipping irradiated mangoes to the U.S. in 2007.

Farm House's first U.S. shipments arrived by air June 13 in Texas. They were irradiated at a USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service facility in Gulfport, Miss., Momin saidLink to Article...

USDA to Order Testing for Salmonella of all Beef Products Sampled for Shiga Toxin-producing E.coli (STEC); BarfBlog  (June 18, 2014)
WASHINGTON: The United States Department of Agriculture has declared that as of June 29, 2014, inspection program personnel (IPP) are to follow new steps when FSIS starts analyzing for Salmonella and all samples collected for Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 and other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).
Raw beef samples, including import and retail samples, collected for STEC analysis will also be analyzed for Salmonella.

* No changes are being made to the raw beef sampling collection methods, sampling eligibilities, or follow-up procedures for samples that test positive for the adulterant STEC.

On June 5, 2014, FSIS announced in the Federal Register (79 FR 32436) that raw beef samples collected for routine and follow-up sampling projects for STEC also will be analyzed for Salmonella. This new approach will allow FSIS to gather baseline data to determine the prevalence of Salmonella in ground beef and trim and to gather data necessary to propose new performance standards for ground beef. Link to Article...

India gears up for mango exports to US market; The Times of India (June 26, 2014): 

NASHIK: The Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) has set an irradiation target of 290 metric tonnes of mangoes at the Lasalgaon facility in the district for export to the US by July 20.
Around 262 metric tonnes of mangoes have been irradiated till June 25 at the irradiation centre in Lasalgaon. In the 2013 season, 281 metric tonnes of mangoes were irradiated at the facility.
In accordance with the US norms, irradiation of mangoes is mandatory before exporting them to the country. Around seven metric tonnes of mangoes are irradiated in an eight-hour shift in the Lasalgaon facility.
"As per the norms, it is mandatory to irradiation of mangoes for export to the US. The Lasalgaon irradiation centre is the only facility in India for irradiation of agricultural products. The mango season is on and is expected to continue by July 20. We have irradiated 262 metric tonnes of mangoes for export to the US. We will cross last year's figure of 281 metric tonnes. We are irradiating mangoes from Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat," an official said. Link to Article...

Malaysian Government Promotes Irradiation as Best Alternative to Improve Food Quality & Safety; Borneo Post (June 26, 2014): 

KUALA LUMPUR: The food irradiation process, which uses nuclear technology, is the best alternative method to increase food quality and safety, according to the Malaysian Nuclear Agency (MNA) director-general Datuk Dr Muhamad Lebai Juri.

He said the method, which involves the process of exposing final food products to a controlled amount of gamma radiation, could destroy harmful bacteria and keep food, especially raw products and fruits, from spoiling.

"The process is usually done for preservation, decontamination and quarantine purposes, as it could destroy bacteria in food products meant for export," he told reporters after opening the Food Safety Seminar 2014 recently. However, he said some people were still confused about the whole irradiation process as it involved nuclear technology. Link to Article.... 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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