Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
July 2016
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:  reustice@gmail.com
and at 612.202.1016
Hardly a whimper! Those words accurately describe the current discussion in Canada regarding the approval of irradiation of ground beef. In 2002, despite unanimous evidence that irradiation was a safe process that would provide the beef industry with a valuable tool to eliminate E. coli O157:H7 and other deadly pathogens, Health Canada did not move forward with the approval of irradiation of ground beef. That decision seemed to have been based on comments received at listening sessions across Canada and through other means. Much has changed since 2002. There have been several large recalls in Canada involving E. Coli O157:H7, Listeria, Salmonella and other deadly pathogens. Meat processing plants have been shut down for weeks as experts attempted to solve the problem. A firm argument can be made that Canada has a very safe food supply, yet problems persist. Deadly pathogens are part of the world we live in and we must use modern science to make safe food even safer. This time I am confident Canada will move forward.
IN THIS ISSUE
Featured Article: Some reasons why some food processors choose not to use irradiation; Are the reasons valid or just excuses?
By Ronald F. Eustice
Irradiation is gaining wider acceptance with each passing day. Thousands of tonnes of irradiated meat, produce and seafood are being consumed annually in about 50 countries. In fact, irradiation is becoming one of the preferred interventions to eliminate insect pests and it has even greater potential to prevent food borne illness. So if it's such a great idea, why are some food processors and producers still reluctant to use irradiation? Why are major food corporations willing to settle multi-million dollar lawsuits when irradiation could have not only avoided the litigation but more importantly prevented the illness in the first place?
 
During the twenty years that I have been educating the industry and the general public about food irradiation, I have received lots of feedback. The same questions come up repeatedly but there is a difference today compared to when I began; questions come up less often as the public warms up to irradiation. Nevertheless, questions continue to be raised and answers must be provided. I recently received the following comment from a meat industry expert, " I think we will see increasing amounts of food irradiated but I still fear it will overall weaken the diligence of plants to run super clean. I also believe there are minor taste issues with irradiated fats." In this column I will take a look at a few of the reasons used by those who choose not to use irradiation. You can also learn more at
 
1. Question: The radura symbol that is required to be on the package of irradiated meat, poultry and seafood will be viewed negatively by the consumer. 
Fact: The label should be used to help educate the consumers and not scare them. Why was the product irradiated? We irradiate meat for food safety. We irradiate imported fruit to prevent harmful insect pests from destroying American agriculture. Under current FDA rules for the retail label we can either add to the 'requirement'...e.g. "Treated by Irradiation for Food Safety".  Or, make a case by case request for replacement wording for "Treated by Irradiation".  USDA rules are slightly different but also allow for augmentation or replacement. Words such as "Irradiated for Food Safety" and "Irradiated to Protect Agriculture from Harmful Insect Pests" should become standard. Labelling can become a benefit and not a stumbling block. Schwans uses "Irradiated for Food Safety" on packages.  Information and education will help irradiation take its rightful place as the powerful tool it is.
2. Question: Irradiation will mask low quality and contamination and result in the sale of inferior food.
Fact: Irradiation is not a substitute for best manufacturing practices, and will not replace inspection, sanitation and intervention practices now in place. Federal laws are in place that require procedures and practices that have helped make our food supply safe. Irradiation is an additional tool that will make safe food even safer.
3. Question: Irradiated food tastes "different."
Fact: Omaha Steaks, Schwans, and Wegmans have marketed irradiated ground beef for well over a decade. If there was a negative impact on taste, texture and color consumers would not buy it. We have done numerous "blind" taste tests with various groups. Something like 99 percent say there is no difference and of those that say they can tell a difference are right about half the time. The "wet dog" issue occurred decades ago with research using a higher than necessary dose; 50 kGy (about ten times more than is now used now) which is 1.25 kGy for fresh and 2.25 kGy for frozen. Those who are critical have used that argument as an excuse not to use irradiation without recognizing that that research is seriously out-dated.
4. Question: Irradiation will increase the cost of our food.
Fact: True; irradiation will increase the cost of food by pennies per pound. Any process that adds value to a food also increases cost. Let's look at it this way, companies have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits involving food safety issues. The cost of irradiation facilities depends on many factors. In nearly all cases, the cost of an irradiation facility is less than the cost to settle a lawsuit.  

Conclusion:
For fifty years invalid "reasons" have become convenient excuses not explore the use of irradiation for specific products. Those considering irradiation should get their facts from reliable sources. There is  a lot of misinformation about irradiation on the internet and some of it was placed on line decades ago by groups and individuals who had other agendas.  Accurate information on food irradiation can be found at  http://www.foodirradiation.org  
For those companies involved in recalls or food safety litigation, the decision not to use irradiation was a costly decision. No one has ever been sued for selling irradiated food but multiple companies have settled multi-million dollar lawsuits because they found "reasons" not to use irradiation to make their product safer. 

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 18 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. 
MYTH of the MONTH: "Irradiation is a food additive." By Russell Stein
Myth:
"Irradiation is a food additive."
Reality:
Legally true.  Technically false!

In 1958 the US Congress passed an Amendment to the Food, Drugs, and Cosmetic Act to address the safety of food additives.  The Act directed the Food and Drug Administration to determine that an additive was safe before allowing its use in food. 

Food Irradiation is the process exposing food to ionizing energy (accelerated electrons, gamma photons or x-ray photons).  The radiation energy passes through the food.  As the energy enters the product, it can: hit an electron of an atom, hit the nucleus of an atom or miss all of the atoms of the product.  When it hits an electron, it can knock that electron off of the atom creating a chemical effect (ionization).  When it hits an electron, some of the radiation energy is transferred to that electron and it also becomes an accelerated electron. 

If the radiation hits the nucleus of an atom, it will transfer all or part of its energy to that nucleus.  Since the radiation does not have an energy level high enough to effect the nucleus of an atom, the nucleus is unaffected other than being shaken up a bit.  The initial radiation and the electrons that were knocked off of the atoms will continue to pass through the product until they either impart all of their energy through collisions with electrons and nuclei; or fly out of the product and impart all of their remaining energy to the shielding of the irradiator. 

Ultimately, all of the radiation energy is transferred to the product or the irradiator's shielding.  As mentioned earlier, it transfers the high energy, from the photons or accelerated electrons, to shaking up the nuclei of the atoms it encounters along the way.  A slightly more technical term for "shaking up" is "heating".  All of the radiation energy is converted to heat energy.  Although the radiation energy is high enough to knock electrons off of the atoms (a chemical effect), it does not have enough energy to effect the nucleus of an atom and therefore cannot make an atom radioactive (a nuclear effect).

The net result is that the irradiation only leaves a small amount of heat in the food. (Typically raising the temperature around one degree for perishable foods). 

Heat is not considered a food additive.  Heating a food is considered a process.  Therefore, technically food irradiation is a process and not an additive.

However, back in 1958, Congress realized that there was both a lot of interest in using radiation processing for food and concern over whether or not there were any safety issues regarding its use.  Clearly, the irradiation process was not technically an additive, but the Act before them was specific to additives.  They chose an overly simple solution...just legally define the irradiation process as an additive.

Irradiation is the only food process that has had to have its safety determined prior to commercial use.  Many other food processes that we use every day, such as cooking, might not be approved using the same rigorous safety standards as those applied to irradiation. 
So one could say:  Irradiation - Pre-approved as a safe food additive without adding anything to the food.

Russell Stein 
GRAY*STAR, Inc.
For first time ever, Indian mangoes set sail for the US. By Nanda Kasabe
For the first time ever, the Indian mango set sail last week for American shores. In all these years mangoes have never been transported by sea, they have been flown out. Financial Express (July 7, 
2016):
Mangoes from India are now being transported by sea to the USA. All mangoes from India must be irradiated to meet US phytosanitary requirements.
 
PUNE, INDIA:  For the first time ever, the Indian mango set sail last week for American shores. In all these years mangoes have never been transported by sea, they have been flown out. However, a consignment of 13 tonnes of the Kesar, Totapuri and Dalambiya varieties was loaded onto a ship last week and should reach New York in 19 days.

Packed in controlled atmosphere (CA) containers, the mangoes had been irradiated at Vashi in Navi Mumbai and at Lasalgaon in Nashik - a condition mandated by the USFDA. A box of 3.5 kilograms costs $15 if the mangoes are sent by air but the same pack costs just about $8 if sent by sea, senior officials at the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) told FE. With the cost virtually halving, exporters can compete better with countries such as Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines, they pointed out. The consignment has been sent on an experimental basis.
India has exported around 700 tonnes of the fruit to the US this year, a sharp rise over last year's 328 tonnes, and around 1,500 tonnes have reached markets across Europe. The more popular varieties abroad are the Alphonso and the Kesar. Unlike the Alphonso, which is delicate, the Totapuri variety of mangoes is more hardy and has a longer shelf life.

The US market was not open for Indian mango exports for over two decades. However, exports to the US revived after 2006 with strict conditions of irradiation imposed by the US. The Lasalgaon irradiation centre is owned by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre while the one at Vashi was set up recently by the MSAMB. Between them, they have 660 tonnes of mangoes for export to the US in the current season with another100 tonnes to be processed over the next few days.

With the season coming to an end, some Banganapalli varieties from Andhra Pradesh and Chausa and Langda varieties from Uttar Pradesh are being exported.
Exports to the US may touch the 1,000-tonne mark in the next two years, officials expect. Almost 90% of the exports are from Maharashtra.
Link to article ...

1,200 tonnes of Karnataka mangoes fly to US: The New India Express; (July 1, 2016): 
BENGALURU, INDIA: Karnataka is expected to export as many as 1,200 tonnes of mangoes to the US this year. "This is for the first time that mangoes (from Karnataka) are being sent to the US," Karnataka State Mango Development Corporation chairperson Kamalakshi Rajanna told reporters on Thursday. 

Of the total, 80 tonnes will be sent by flight early Friday morning and the rest will follow soon.  "A team from Washington had visited our mango processing site. After approval, we are sending Alphonso, Kesar and other varieties," she said.

"This year, we have also exported around 5,000 tonnes of mangoes to the Gulf countries, Singapore, London and other European countries."

On the mango mela that concluded at Lalbagh on Wednesday, Kamalakshi said this year, they sold 1,050 tonnes of mangoes against 850 tonnes last year. Last year, the mela generated a business of Rs 4 crore, and this year, it increased to Rs 6.3 crore. "This is a record in terms of sale of mangoes," she said. This year, mango melas were also held in Delhi and Goa, which received good response.

Online mango sales a hit
Kamalakshi said they have introduced online sale of mangoes this year, and already 1,000 kg were sold , raking in Rs 6 lakh. The demand was from across the state, she said.
On mango picking tourism, where tourists take part in harvesting the fruit in orchards, she said they sold 8 tonnes of mangoes and made a profit of Rs 5 lakh.
Link to article ...
Agri Park exports 1.2 tonnes mangoes, pomegranates to US; News-Optimist, Kaumudi Online; (June 30, 2016): 
BENGALURU, INDIA: The first shipment of 1.2 tonnes of mangoes and pomegranates produced at Innova Agri Bio Park here was flagged off for export to the US today.
 
The Park is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) project supported by the Central Ministry of Food Processing Industries and Food Karnataka Limited, a Special Purpose Vehicle under the state government.
 
"This is a testimony of the government and industry-led Best Management Practice (BMP) to deliver real on-the-ground results, improving on farm prosperity, productivity, agro-environmental sustenance," State Health Minister K R Ramesh Kumar said, after flagging off the shipment.
 
The shipment contained 250 boxes of mangoes and 50 boxes of pomegranates under the brand 'FarmRus', a company release said.
 
Innova Agri Bio Park Chairman and Managing Director Krishna Ella said the committed support from the state government and company's partners had resulted in the shipment of 'FarmRus' to US, validating the project model.
 
"This will bolster the agricultural industry and the very concept of Agri Bio Park."
Innova Agri Bio Park Ltd is only the Gamma Irradiation facility in India which is certified by the US, integrated with pack house comprising automatic hot water treatment, sorting, grading and packing facilities, the release said.
 
The Park enables both farmers and exporters from southern states to save a lot in exporting mangoes to the US, it said.
 
Among the features of the park located at Malur, about 45 km from Bengaluru, is the Gamma Irradiation Facility established with an investment of Rs 35 crore, the release said.
OTTAWA: Health Canada is in the midst of a 75-day consultation period on a proposal to allow irradiation of frozen and fresh ground beef in Canada.

While there has been some public concern over the process, Health Canada's Bureau of Chemical Safety director Barbara Lee says it's completely safe to consume irradiated beef, noting the process is currently allowed on foods such as onions and potatoes.

"(Irradiation) has undergone a complete safety assessment where we look at the nutritional, chemical, microbiological, and toxicological aspects of the practice, and we've confirmed it is safe," she says. "Irradiation is process that exposes food to a type of energy that's known as ionization radiation, and it's used in food processing... for a number of uses, but in this case, it's used to reduce the level of harmful bacteria. It also has uses of inhibiting sprouting and increasing shelf life."
Lee stresses this practice is an optional and complementary safety measure, and does not replace other food safety processing practices and processes.

"It doesn't necessarily replace the current safety practices and procedures used in food establishments, (for) example... handling, sanitation, and storage," she says. "It's just another tool in the toolbox. It's optional to be used by the industry if it's going to have them have a safer product at the end."

Lee says they are holding the consultation period because this proposal would entail a regulatory change.
Irradiation has been approved for frozen and raw ground beef in the U.S. since 1997.
No uproar over irradiation proposal; Jennifer Blair; Alberta Farmer (June 21, 2016):
When irradiating ground beef was first proposed in 2002, Canadian consumers were wary. The outcry has suddenly become a whisper. 

When irradiating ground beef was first proposed in 2002, consumers were wary.

The expected consumer outcry over irradiated ground beef has been more of a whisper - a complete sea change from the early 2000s when the technology was first proposed

"Many consumer groups are receptive to the concept, much more so than 14 years ago when Health Canada was seriously considering moving forward on this," said food marketing expert Sylvain Charlebois.

"It seems that the landscape has changed regarding irradiated beef."

Health Canada first broached the idea of irradiating ground beef - a process that kills bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella - in 2002, but quickly shelved the idea due to lack of consumer support.
But following Health Canada's announcement in late May that it will soon propose regulations allowing irradiation in ground beef, consumers seem to have changed their tune, said Charlebois, dean of the faculty of management at Dalhousie University.

"I think more and more people are understanding that there's always a risk in anything we do, but there are ways to mitigate the risks. If the technology exists, why not use it? I think that's where the Canadian population is right now."

Beef industry expert Mark Klassen agrees. "Most polls would indicate that the majority of Canadians is in support of allowing the sale of irradiated ground beef," said Klassen, director of technical services for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. "There is growing support, and one of the reasons I say that is because of the support from the Consumer Association of Canada for our irradiation submission. They've been fairly vocal about their support for this in the media." Klassen attributes that change to a better understanding of the technology.

"The more education that you provide to consumers about what the process of irradiation is, the higher the support levels," said Klassen.

Labelling critical
The Canadian Cattlemen's Association first petitioned the government to approve irradiation in ground beef in 1998, and at that time, "Health Canada confirmed that irradiation was safe and effective. That was the scientific part of it," he said.

"It's frustrating because, from a scientific perspective, we know this is a good thing - but that doesn't change the fact that it's a challenge to communicate this," said Klassen.

"The reality is that, even when things are proven by science, it can take an awful long time for them to be accepted."
Despite the fact that there is "little or no risk" associated with irradiation, consumers have been fearful of the technology, in part because the process involves radiation similar to that of X-rays, said Charlebois.

"Over the years, I think there has been some concern that it would make food radioactive, and that's not the case," he said.

It's similar to the reaction consumers had about microwave ovens when they were first introduced, he added.
"In the 1970s, there was some fear expressed by some consumers about the use of microwave ovens but now, since we understand the technology, 90 per cent of households have them," he said.

The real issue is labelling, said Charlebois. "If you give a clear choice to consumers about what they're buying, you're giving them a chance to befriend the technology," said Charlebois, adding that that wasn't done with GMOs.
"If you're allowing them to understand that there are some things they're already buying that have been irradiated, like onions, potatoes, and spices, you do give them a chance to understand that these products are part of the food chain and irradiation is part of how we mitigate risks in that process.

"We need to recognize how powerful risk perceptions can be, and that needs to be addressed. We need to properly communicate risks through labels and education." And ultimately, consumers will be given that choice, said Klassen.

"This is not intended to be a mandatory process," he said. "This is a product that will be clearly labelled. This will be a choice.
"We understand that not all Canadians will elect to purchase irradiated ground beef, and that's fine. But it's a different thing if we're preventing others who may wish to purchase it from doing so. 
Link to article ... 
Dragon fruit exports to enjoy robust growth; Vietnam Business (June 26, 2016):
Dragon fruit being harvested in Long An Province Vietnam 
HANOI: Shipments of Vietnamese dragon fruit abroad are expected to shoot up after Taiwan (China) agreed to reopen its doors to Vietnamese white flesh dragon fruit from June 2016, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

In March 2009, Taiwan completely suspended the import of Vietnamese dragon fruit over fear of being infected with melon fly disease. It was said the flies that eat guava could inhabit the fruit and enter Taiwan.

At that time, Vietnam exported around 15,000-16,000 tonnes of dragon fruits to Taiwan annually.
Dragon fruit is favoured for exports thanks to its long preserving term (40 days) and low cost of transportation by sea route (0.2-0.3 USD per kilogramme).

Australia has officially commenced a review to import fresh dragon fruit from Vietnam into its market.
According to a press release published by the Australian Embassy in Vietnam on April 27, fresh dragon fruit is one of the agricultural products given top priority to access Australia.

In the first six months of the year, Vietnam sold 4,610 tonnes of fruit in foreign markets, 72 percent of which was dragon fruit. 
Vietnam exported over one million tonnes of dragon fruit in 2015.

{The irradiation of Vietnamese Dragon Fruit, to allow export to the US, provided a market and a supply structure that helped facilitate export to other countries...with or without the need for using irradiation as a quarantine treatment. Irradiation is opening new doors to global trade. ...are we starting an avalanche?}
Link to article ...
Radura
foodirradiation.org 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
reustice@gmail.com