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Food Irradiation Updates

  
Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
June 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.
Irradiation of food continues to move forward at a rapidly as lychees from Vietnam, mangoes from India, Mexico and Pakistan reach supermarkets around the world. Much of this movement would not have happened without efforts by government agencies, farmers and food marketers to bring irradiation mainstream. Stay tuned as we move forward.

Spot the Radura: 
Irradiated mangoes produced in India by Savani Farms 
have been available in US stores for several years.  
Consumer acceptance has been excellent

IN THIS ISSUE

FEATURED ARTICLE: Using irradiation to make safe food safer: (Part II) 

By Ronald F. Eustice

 


 

In the USA, there were vigorous objections to the widespread heat treatment of milk and the debate continued for many years, although the method was recognized by dairy processors as a way of increasing the shelf life of fluid milk.  Early commercial pasteurization of milk was not generally accepted, but many companies had secretly adopted the process because they were concerned about consumer acceptance. 

 

Arguments against pasteurization:

* This is little more than an excuse for the sale of contaminated milk. 

* Pasteurization will be used to mask low-quality foods. Better controls and inspection are what is needed.

* Pasteurization decreases the nutritional value of milk.

* It leads to formation of harmful products in milk. Possibly dangerous substances could be formed.

* This process will increase the price of the product. 

* It is not necessary. We have a direct and prompt food distribution system.

 

The incidence of milk-borne illness declined dramatically when pasteurization was used to kill bacteria. Today foodborne illness attributed to pasteurized milk is virtually zero.

 

Pasteurization is the "kill step" that made milk safe.  

 

Irradiation is another "kill step!"

 

The use of high-energy irradiation to kill microbes in food was evaluated in the USA as early as 1921, when scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture reported that it would effectively kill trichinae in pork. Irradiation has become a standard process used to sterilize many consumer and medical products, from adhesive strips to surgical implants. Three different technologies that can be used to treat food have been developed by the sterilization industry; gamma irradiation, electron beam irradiation and x-ray Irradiation. Each technology has its own advantages which irradiation service providers and some food processors are well aware of.

 

Challenges face the meat industry:

Drug resistant strains of Salmonella represent a serious challenge to the meat industry.  Salmonella typhimurium is a drug resistant strain of Salmonella that is difficult to treat using most antibiotics. Outbreaks of Salmonella typhimurium are becoming frequent and usually involve ground beef and ground turkey. 

 

According to The World Health Organization: "...Salmonella strains which are resistant to a range of antimicrobials, including first-choice agents for the treatment of humans, have emerged and are threatening to become a serious public health problem. This resistance results from the use of antimicrobials in humans and animal husbandry. Multi-drug resistance to critically important antimicrobials is compounding the problems." 

 

So what can be done to reduce the risk of drug resistant strains of
Salmonella in raw meat and poultry products? While the beef industry does not agree that use of anti-microbials in animals contributes to drug resistance because most of the anti-microbials used on cattle are not used in human medicine. The beef industry already employs multiple interventions for controlling E. coli O157:H7. Presumably, these are also effective at controlling Salmonella. There is, however, one major difference - Salmonella may be present in lymph nodes and throughout the lymphatic system.  Therefore, there may be an additional vector of contamination different from
E. coli O157:H7 and other STEC's that are contaminating carcasses during hide removal and evisceration during the slaughter process.  Addressing Salmonella
contamination associated with lymph nodes poses a whole new challenge.

 

Salmonella is more prevalent in poultry products and its elimination in raw poultry is simply not possible without a kill step such as irradiation. Larger doses of irradiation are required to completely eliminate Salmonella in raw meat and poultry products, however at doses normally used we can achieve more than a 99.9 percent reduction in Salmonella.

 

Irradiated poultry has been available commercially in the past however currently no poultry processor is offering irradiated poultry. Unfortunately, there is a currently a shortage of perishable food irradiation facilities near poultry processing plants.

 

Why not just cook it?

There are many who say that if consumers used a meat thermometer and learned how to cook, the risk of foodborne illness from contaminated meat would practically disappear. Let's examine this theory in depth.

 

We know that proper cooking will inactivate strains of bacteria in ground beef and poultry. Education of consumers to reinforce appropriate cooking methods and the use of thermometers to verify cooking temperatures is vitally important in addressing the problem of harmful bacteria in general. 

 

"Using thermometers is the only way to really know that your food is thoroughly cooked - that it has reached a temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that could possibly be there," says Dr. Christine Bruhn, retired director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University of California.

 

But Bruhn's research has shown that few consumers actually use a thermometer to check the doneness of meat, poultry and seafood, or to check the temperature in their refrigerators. 

"They might do it on a roast, they might do it on whole chicken," Bruhn says. "They don't do it on the smaller chicken parts, they seldom do it on burgers, and even on steaks they are relying on visual indicators. They're not really verifying the temperature on the inside."

 

How many use thermometers for cooking?

Self-reported use of thermometers has increased from 33 percent in 1998 to 53 percent in 2010. This seems like great progress, but Bruhn warns that people may only use thermometers on large hunks of meat or poultry, such as a pot roast or the Thanksgiving turkey, and not necessarily in everyday cooking. People might also say they use thermometers even though they don't just because they know they're supposed to.

 

According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 46 percent of participants said they never use a thermometer when cooking chicken parts and 66 percent said they never use one when cooking or grilling hamburgers.

 

Last year, while studying various aspects of chicken preparation in consumer homes, Bruhn found that only 5 percent of participants used a thermometer without prompting from the researchers, and only about a third agreed to do so when prompted. 

From there, researchers found that 40 percent of the chicken in the study was undercooked, especially when it was grilled or barbecued.

 

According to a recent study conducted by RTI International, Tennessee State University and Kansas State University, 62 percent of consumers own a food thermometer, but less than 10 percent of them actually use it to check for doneness in all poultry. 

 

When is a product defective?

Foodborne illness outbreaks usually result in litigation. Often these cases are settled before a case goes to a jury. One well-known company settled a lawsuit for $1,000,000 out of court. The victim had been paralyzed as a result of an E. coli O157:H7 hamburger.   Several law firms specialize in foodborne illness litigation including MarlerClark, a Seattle firm that represented victims of the Jack In The Box E. coli outbreak.

 

A product is in a defective condition, unreasonably dangerous to the user, when it has a propensity or tendency for causing physical harm beyond that which would be contemplated by the ordinary user, having ordinary knowledge of the product's characteristics commonly known to the foreseeable class of persons who would normally use the product.  

 

With regard to the issue of 'legal cause,' a defective condition is a legal cause of injury if it directly and in natural and continuous sequence produces or contributes substantially to producing such injury, so that it can reasonably be said that, except for the defective condition, the injury complained of would not have occurred. A defective condition may be a legal cause of damage even though it operates in combination with the act of another, some natural cause, or some other cause if such other cause occurs at the same time as the defective condition and if the defective condition contributes substantially to producing such damage.

Thus, in cases involving allegedly defective, unreasonably dangerous products, the manufacturer may be liable even though you may find that it exercised all reasonable care in the design, manufacture and sale of the product in question.

 

On the other hand, any failure of a manufacturer of a product to adopt the most modern, or even a better safeguard, does not make the manufacturer legally liable to a person injured by that product. The manufacturer is not a guarantor that nobody will get hurt in using its product, and a product is not defective or unreasonably dangerous merely because it is possible to be injured while using it. There is no duty upon the manufacturer to produce a product that is 'accident-proof.' What the manufacturer is required to do is to make a product, which is free from defective and unreasonably dangerous conditions. 

 

Let the jury decide!

 

If any other manufacturer marketed a product that contained a defect that could cause serious injury or death three to 4 percent of the time, the owners or board of directors would be scrambling to recall the product and correct the situation. While the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 has been significantly reduced, the percent of ground beef and poultry samples testing positive for Salmonella has remained unchanged. Despite thousands of foodborne illness cases caused by Salmonella poisoning, the FSIS does not have product recall authority. Efforts are underway to change that but the meat industry as expected is opposed.


Today's Technology: Food Irradiation:

The use of high-energy irradiation to kill microbes in food was evaluated in this country as early as 1921, when scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture reported that it would effectively kill trichinae in pork. Irradiation has become a standard process used to sterilize many consumer and medical products, from adhesive strips to surgical implants. 

 

Except for those within food companies that are having their products irradiated on a routine basis, we haven't heard much about food irradiation over the last decade.  All of a sudden, there seems to be a resurgence of press articles and even government approvals related to irradiating food. One food safety expert who formerly was a high-ranking official at FSIS recently said "It's time to take a serious look at irradiation." 

 

Effect of Irradiation on Microbes:

Three different technologies that can be used to treat food have been developed by the sterilization industry; Gamma Irradiation, Electron Beam Irradiation and X-Irradiation.

The high-energy rays of irradiation directly damage the DNA of living organisms, inducing cross-linkages and other changes that make an organism unable to grow or reproduce. When these rays interact with water molecules in an organism, they generate transient free radicals that can cause additional indirect damage to DNA. An absorbed dose of irradiation energy is now measured in units called Grays, rather than an older measure called a rad. One Gray equals 100 rads, and 10 kiloGray equal 1 megarad. Complex life forms with large DNA molecules are affected by relatively low doses. Simpler organisms with smaller DNA can take progressively higher doses. Thus, a low dose of under one kiloGray disinfects insects and parasites and inhibits plants from sprouting. A medium dose, between 1.5 and 4.5 kiloGray, kills most bacterial pathogens other than spores, and a higher dose of 10-45 kiloGray will inactivate bacterial spores and some viruses. 

 

The actual dose required to treat food varies with the specific pathogen and the specific circumstances of the food. It generally takes a higher dose to kill the same number of organisms in frozen food than it does to kill them in refrigerated food. A D-dose is the amount of irradiation that it takes to destroy 90% of the organisms or one decimal log. Thus, a one-log kill would reduce a million bacteria to 100,000. To eliminate 99.999% of the bacteria (a so-called 5 logarithm kill) takes 5 times the irradiation dose needed for a 1 log kill and would reduce a million bacteria to ten. For example, it takes 0.2 kiloGray to reduce Campylobacter in meat by one decimal log or 1 kiloGray to reduce it by 5 decimal logs.

 

Safety of irradiation:

Irradiation has been approved for use on a broad range of foods for different purposes. The use of irradiation on food was formally approved as though it were something added to food, rather than a process to which the food is subjected. This means that for meats and poultry, approval is required from both the FDA and USDA. The effect of irradiation on food itself is usually minimal at doses up to 7.5 kGray. Treated food does not become radioactive at any dose, and, in general, shelf life is prolonged because organisms that cause spoilage are reduced along with pathogens. Irradiation has been used effectively in a wide variety of meats, poultry, seafood, oysters, grains, spices and produce. 

 

Nutritional and other chemical changes induced in food by irradiation have been studied extensively. In general, these changes are limited to modest declines in the quality and amount of a few vitamins, particularly thiamine (vitamin B1), that are not likely to change the overall adequacy of dietary intake, and to production of transient free radical oxidants, which react almost immediately in the food and do not persist. Similar oxidants are also produced by cooking, and, in any event, would be hydrolyzed immediately in the stomach if any were present. It is important to remember that the processes of cooking, such as grilling or frying, themselves induce profound chemical changes in foods, which we depend on to make them edible and tasty. 

 

The safety of consuming irradiated foods has been evaluated in large-scale trials in animals, some of which lived for several generations. No ill effects were observed, and, in particular, no teratogenic effects (birth defects) were seen in mice, hamsters, rats or rabbits. Formal feeding trials were also conducted with human volunteers without ill effects, and NASA routinely uses irradiated meats in the diet of astronauts.

 

Hundreds of thousands of tons of food have been irradiated and consumed in the past 50 years and there have been no reports of human issues, however hundreds of thousands of people have become ill from eating regular food that has not been irradiated.

 

Consumer Acceptance of Irradiated Foods:

Will the public accept irradiated foods?  Surveys conducted recently by the Food Marketing Institute and one conducted at FoodNet sites on the general population have had results similar to those obtained in the studies mentioned above (20,21). About 50% of the population is ready to buy irradiated foods, if asked. Acceptance will be greater if irradiated food is not much more expensive than non-irradiated food. The rate of acceptance can increase from 50% up to 80% to 90% if customers understand that irradiation reduces harmful bacteria in food. Similar results have been observed when test marketing irradiated products. Since 2000, irradiated ground beef has been for sale at Wegmans and from Omaha Steaks and Schwan's. The medical and public health communities have responded to this availability with enthusiasm and full support.

 

Surveys are interesting but all that really matters is how well a product sells in the marketplace. Irradiated food items have been available for several decades but it was the introduction of irradiated ground beef in Minnesota during May 2000 that created national attention. 

 

During the past 15 years, an increasing amount of irradiated food items have become available including irradiated fruits and oysters. There has been strong acceptance of irradiated produce in the United States as well as in Australia and New Zealand. The volume of irradiated produce consumed in the US is approaching 50 million pounds and growing. Consumer acceptance of irradiated produce has been excellent and seldom if ever comes up as an issue in a conversation. The reality is that people buy products not technologies. The vast majority of consumers don't care which food safety intervention has been used as long as the food is safe. 

 

The volume of irradiated ground beef has been steady, while the amount of irradiated oysters is rapidly growing due to the increasing prevalence of vibrio, which has nearly shut down oyster production in some parts of the US East Coast.

By Ronald F. Eustice

Link to article...

MYTH of the MONTH:"

Irradiation can be used to make spoiled food marketable

." By Russell Stein

Myth: 

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

Reality:

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. 

Link to article...  

Russell N. Stein

GRAY*STAR, Inc.

www.GrayStarInc.com

Also in the News: The US and Indonesia are hopeful markets for Australian lychee growers; Fresh Plaza (June 5, 2015):

The first shipments of irradiated lychees from Vietnam are in US stores.

There's been a lot of news about mangoes being exported from Australia into the USA, but Australian lychee growers are also in the process of preparing for registration, and will undertake a similar three-year trial period of exports to the US. "The Australian Department of Agriculture is in the process of getting the Operational Work Plan for lychees and potentially mangoes updated, with the new OWP finalized in the coming days/weeks." says Australian Lychee Growers Association Executive Officer, Jill Houser.  "Only a small number of growers will be registered for the 3 year trial period, registration approval forms will need to be completed and then growers and orchards will be approved in August/September. Hopefully everything will be in place to start exporting from far north Queensland in November." 

 

The registration for lychee growers is waiting on final approvals from Canberra, and the official timeline will be released soon. While mango exports began in 2014 on a trial basis, and the first shipment left in February, no lychees have yet been shipped out of Australia, even on a test basis.

 

The lychee industry should do well if it can expand into new export markets, given the rather limited seasonal availability in the domestic market, which runs through Christmas time. Currently, irradiated lychees are exported to New Zealand on a seasonal basis and approval has also been obtained for the exporting of irradiated Australian lychees into Indonesia. Lychees are also being exported to a number of other overseas destinations including the UK, Tahiti, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, UAE, France and Hong Kong. Lychees are a $20 million a year industry, but that number may grow if China and other markets within Asia are opened up for access.  The Australian Lychee industry has been waiting since 2002 to gain export approval into mainland China, with the irradiation protocol for the USA now approved, the industry is hoping China will be next.  

 

Lychees may also become available for a longer season in Australia, after the government gave final approval to accept irradiated lychees from Vietnam on May 12, after the Vietnamese exporters waited 12 years to gain market access.
Link to article... 
Also in the News: First Vietnam lychee shipment heads to US (June 7, 2015):

 

 

HAI DUONG, VIETNAM (VNS) - The first batch of fresh lychees, cultivated in accordance with strict Viet Gap regulations, have been readied at a packing facility in Thanh Ha District, Hai Duong Province.

 

Visiting lychee farms yesterday, where fruits are picked for no-pedestrians site packaging, Robert Guillemot of the United States Department of Agriculture signed an approval allowing the fruits to be packed for exports.

 

The first lychee shipment of 2 tonnes shall be irradiated in the country's only facility in HCM City and, if approved, shall be transported by air to the United States.

Further inspections will be carried out in the US, before the fruits are made available for US customers. Initial steps have so far been positive. - VNS. Editor's Note: Irradiation is required on all lychees imported into the US from Vietnam.


Link to article...

Indo-Russian nuclear venture to help farmers; Rosatom and Hindustan Agro have forged joint venture for storage of agricultural products; By Andrei Retinger, Russia/India News (June 6, 2015):
Experts in India have found that isotope processing of agricultural produce significantly increases yields, protects it from destruction by pests and has a positive impact on quality and shelf-life.

Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom and Hindustan Agro have established a joint enterprise for the production and storage of agricultural products irradiated by isotopes: vegetables, fruits, cereals, and legumes. Radiation technologies will help save crops even during periods of draught.


The two sides have invested around Rs 40-45 billion rupees (approximately $700 million) in this joint venture. The companies plan to open 25 factories for the irradiation of food products with low doses of cobalt-60 over the next five years. It is planned to locate refrigeration capacity in India, Mauritius, the Near East, and Malaysia. 


According to Anil Kakodkar, the former head of the Atomic Energy Commission of India, isotope production essentially increases the shelf life of perishable food products, which makes it possible for farmers to enhance their presence in the market and balance out prices. "Such technologies are especially needed in Indian horticulture where there are serious price spikes," he said.

Experts have found out that the isotope processing of agricultural produce significantly increases yields and protects it from destruction. Isotope sterilisation technology has been used all over the world for dozens of years. Irradiated objects, including produce, do not become radioactive and they can be used immediately after the process.


Usually, products that are grown are irradiated by isotope sources; for example, grains, spices, dried herbs, potatoes, and other root vegetables. After such treatment, the products can be stored for a very long time and do not spoil. At one time in Uruguay there were tests on isotope processing for potatoes that showed successful results. As an example, the installation for the radiation processing of products in local conditions is cost-effective if it processes 25,000 tonnes of potatoes and 5,000 tonnes of garlic per year. In Italy, industrial installations have long been in operation for irradiating potatoes and garlic. Russian nuclear specialists supply isotope products for such installations for international clients, including in the US, Europe, and Latin America.


"Produce and, above all, herbs simply must be processed because when they are collected, dried, and packed, the fact that dangerous bacteria or fungi can affect them is colossal," says Alexei Chasovskikh, the head of the laboratory of the division of radiation technologies and equipment of NIITFA.
Link to article...

Irradiation would help reduce food poisoning; FoodManufacture.co UK; By Rick Pendrous (June 4, 2015):

   
John Bassett, a microbiologist and risk assessment analyst and until March 2014, a member of the Food Standards Board, recently described irradiation as "

a wonderful technology". Greater use of food irradiation across the EU would help to prevent many avoidable cases of food poisoning from bacteria such as salmonella, campylobacter and E.coli, a leading food safety consultant has argued. 

Link to article...

New Zealand consumers have developed a great taste for Australian (irradiated) mangoes; Fresh Plaza (June 9, 2015):

Irradiated mangoes from Australia are gaining strong support in New Zealand
 
With both major supermarket chains stocking them, record numbers of exports in 2014/2015 and national distribution, it would be fair to say that Australian mangoes have been warmly received by New Zealand consumers. "In 2013/2014 we processed 1200 palettes, which equates to 1.2 million mangoes. In 2014/2015 we have processed 1500 palettes, which equates to 1.8 million mangoes," says Murray Lynch, CEO of Steritech, the company that carries out treatment and processing of Australian mangoes before they are shipped overseas. The strong numbers, and the fact that Australian mangoes are accepted at all major retailers and many independents, means there is a strong launch pad for the upcoming 2016 season already in place in New Zealand, according to Michael Daysh, Market Development Officer for the Department of Primary Industries in the Northern Territory.

The increase in late 2014 and early 2015 has continued a steep upward trajectory, equating to 600 million mangoes. This season that was due to an oversupply in the domestic market leading growers to look to overseas markets for a higher return, according to Mr Lynch. Even though Australian mangoes compete with those from countries such as Peru and Ecuador on the international market, the price they have attracted in New Zealand has been high enough to make exports worthwhile, with consumers happy to pay a premium for quality produce from Australia, according to growers. Pinata farms, which sends mangoes to New Zealand, also confirmed that it sent 50% more this year than what it did in 2014. 

The most popular varieties for New Zealand consumers are Honey Gold, R2E2, Kensington Pride and Calypso - KEITTS and Calypso recently shipped to the US, and have been received well by retailers and consumers there according to reports.
{Editor's Note: All Australian mangoes must be irradiated to enter New Zealand}

US officials to check litchi factory in Vietnam for export certification; Vietnam.net  (June 4, 2015):

USDA official checks lychees in Vietnam.
HANOI: U.S. quarantine officers will check a fruit factory in the northern province of Hai Duong and approve it to process and package litchi for export to the U.S. if it meets requirements.


The factory invested by HCMC-based Red Dragon Co. Ltd. will be the first fruit processing factory in the north to be approved for meeting the U.S.'s import standards if it passes the check, according to the center's director Nguyen Huu Dat. Mai Xuan Thin, export director of the company, told the Daily that the Post-Import Plant Quarantine Center II and American quarantine authorities plan to visit the facility on June 9. 

 

Thin said the date could be changed and the test result would be the decisive factor for the facility to be approved for packaging litchi for export to the U.S. If the factory meets the U.S. criteria, it will package litchi in Hai Duong Province before having the fruit transported to HCMC for irradiation and then exported stateside by air. "If we are allowed to package litchi on the spot in Hai Duong Province instead of in HCMC, we can ensure the best quality of the fruit," Thin said. Thin said Red Dragon hoped to sell the first three tons of fresh litchi to the U.S. on June 10. However, he did not reveal the value of the order. 

 

Dat of Post-Import Plant Quarantine Center II said HCMC-based Anh Duong Sao Co. Ltd. has successfully shipped the first two batches of Vietnamese litchi weighing one ton to the U.S. market and the market response has been quite positive. In addition to the U.S., local firms are working towards exporting litchi to Australia. The Domestic Market Department at the Ministry of Industry and Trade estimates the combined litchi output in Bac Giang and Hai Duong provinces at 200,000 tons with 60% of the volume consumed domestically and the rest exported. 

Radurafoodirradiation.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 
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.
From Bozeman to Biloxi, from Newark to Newport Beach, from Australia, China, Thailand and Mexico to New Zealand irradiated fruits are on supermarket shelves. Consumers nationwide can purchase irradiated ground beef at retail stores, by mail order or by delivery directly to their homes. These are exciting times for food irradiation! Below are images of irradiated produce in US supermarkets. Please help all of us by going to your local supermarket and sharing any information about types of irradiated produce on the shelves. Pictures welcome if possible.
The volume of irradiated produce increasing in both Australia, New Zealand and the USA. In the USA alone some 40 million pounds are consumed annually

Irradiated guavas from Mexico at a major US retailer.


Approximately 12 million pounds of irradiated produce from Hawaii is marketed annually on the US mainland.

IN THIS ISSUE

FEATURED ARTICLE: Using irradiation to make safe food safer: (Part I) By Ronald F. Eustice

 

Vibrio cases increased for the eighth consecutive year.

Salmonella infection cases are at the same pace they were in 2006-2008.

 

Food safety is at the top of every food processor's list of priorities. The public demands safe food and the marketing of an unsafe product is a recipe for disaster. Recalls are expensive; damage brand image and often result in litigation. A foodborne illness outbreak resulting in hospitalization or death is always a serious threat to a company's viability.

 

We often hear the words; we have the world's safest food supply. The food industry in the United States has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in technology to make food safer. Any claim about producing the world's safest food is open to challenge. Forty-eight million people fall sick every year in the US from eating food tainted with salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli, and other contaminants.

 

Let's look at the numbers: USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently posted the third quarter progress report for calendar year 2014 on testing of selected raw meat and poultry products for pathogenic bacteria.

 

Salmonella: This report provides preliminary data from July through September 2014 on all establishments eligible for salmonella testing that have completed at least two sampling verification sets since June 2006. 

 

A total of 2,396 samples were analyzed from 171 broiler establishments with a 4.1 percent positive rate for salmonella, representing an increase from the 3.1 percent positive rate for second quarter 2014. For young chickens, large plants showed a 1.5 percent positive rate, while small plants had a positive rate of 4.1 percent and very small plants had a positive rate of 15 percent.  

 

For turkeys, the overall salmonella positive rate in the third quarter was 1.9 percent, down from 2.7 percent in the second quarter. Large plants showed a 1.4 percent rate while small plants came in at 2.2 percent in the third quarter.   

 

For ground beef, a 3.3 percent salmonella positive rate in the third quarter was comprised of a 5.6 percent rate in large plants, a 3.2 percent rate in small plants and a 2.9 percent rate in very small plants.  In the second quarter the ground beef positive rate across all plant sizes was 1.5 percent. 

 

Campylobacter: For young chickens, the third quarter campylobacter positive rate was 6.9 percent, comprised of 1.3 percent in large plants, 7.9 percent in small plants and 28.3 percent in very small plants. In the second quarter, the rate across all plant sizes was 5.1 percent. 

 

For turkeys, the campylobacter positive rate was 1.2 percent, comprised of 0.5 percent in large plants and 1.6 percent in small plants. In the second quarter, the rate was 3.4 percent.

 

The complete report and program details are available here.


 

Every year the CDC releases a report titled Incidence and Trends of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food...." Let's compare the numbers for 2014 with those of 2013. The following numbers are actual laboratory confirmed cases, not estimates.

 

Salmonella infections were down 9% compared to 2010-2012, but level with 2006-2008. The report says that this might be because of the very high number of Salmonella enteritidis cases associated with the egg incident in 2010 that put the number of illnesses at its highest over the last ten years. 

 

Vibrio cases increased for the 8th straight year, and are most prevalent in the warmer months when the bacteria apparently reproduce more rapidly.Vibrio is usually associated with raw oysters and is most deadly in older men who consume too much alcohol by attacking their livers. Vibrio is the second deadliest bug after listeria.

 

STEC O157 and STEC non-O157 were very similar in frequency for 2014 compared to 2013 (1.15 and 1.17 respectively) and mortality at 0.4 percent for both years. Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome associated with STEC O157 decreased 36% compared to 2006-2008, but the actual illness rate did not decline.  

 

Vibrio cases increased for the 8th straight year, and are most prevalent in the warmer months when the bacteria apparently reproduce more rapidly.Vibrio is usually associated with raw oysters and is the second deadliest bug after listeria. Vibrio has nearly devastated the oyster industry but thanks to irradiation the industry will survive.

 

Each year the food industry invests millions of dollars in technology to eliminate deadly bacteria. The above numbers clearly show that we still have many challenges. My analysis of the numbers is that we are fighting a battle but not winning the war. When we read press releases from various meat associations, we get the idea that great progress is being made. Progress has been made but it looks to me like we take a step backward for every step forward. Without a "kill step" there is no net gain!


Albert Einstein said "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  We can take some lessons from the dairy industry and their reluctance to routinely use pasteurization as a "kill step".

 

What we need is a "kill step"

Historical Perspective

The process of heating or boiling milk for health benefits was recognized during the early 1800s and was used to reduce milk borne illness and mortality in infants in the late 1800s. As society industrialized around the turn of the 20th century, increased milk production and consumption led to outbreaks of milk borne diseases.


Common milk borne illnesses included typhoid fever, scarlet fever, septic sore throat, diphtheria, tuberculosis, and diarrheal diseases.  
A century ago, milk products caused approximately 1 out of every 4 outbreaks due to food or water in the United States (Weisbecker 2007). Today, far less than 1% of all food and waterborne illnesses can be traced to dairy products. In fact, dairy products cause the fewest outbreaks of all the major food categories (e.g., beef, eggs, poultry, produce, seafood) (CSPI 2008). This drastic improvement in the safety of milk over the last 100 years is believed to be due primarily to pasteurization, and improved sanitation and temperature control during the processing, handling, shipping and storage of fresh milk products.


Pasteurization was developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864 to improve the keeping qualities of wine. Commercial pasteurization of milk began in the late 1800s in Europe and in the early 1900s in the United States. Pasteurization became mandatory for all milk sold within the city of Chicago in 1908, and in 1947 Michigan became the first state to require that all milk for sale within the state be pasteurized.


In the USA, there were vigorous objections to the widespread heat treatment of milk and the debate continued for many years, although the method was recognized by dairy processors as a way of increasing the shelf life of fluid milk. Early commercial pasteurization of milk was not generally accepted, but many companies had secretly adopted the process because they were concerned about consumer acceptance. The incidence of milk-borne illness declined dramatically when pasteurization was used to kill bacteria. Pasteurization was the "kill step".


Irradiation is the "kill step":
 
The use of high-energy irradiation to kill microbes in food was evaluated in the USA as early as 1921, when scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture reported that it would effectively kill trichinae in pork. Irradiation has become a standard process used to sterilize many consumer and medical products, from adhesive strips to surgical implants. Three different technologies that can be used to treat food have been developed by the sterilization industry; gamma irradiation, electron beam irradiation and x-ray Irradiation. Each technology has its own advantages which irradiation service providers are well aware of.


Potential Health Benefits of Irradiating Meat and Poultry

Dr. Robert Tauxe at the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has calculated the benefit that would occur if more meat were irradiated. Here is what Dr. Tauxe said, "We can roughly estimate the potential benefit of irradiating meat and poultry with a simple calculation. Let us assume that 50% of poultry, ground beef, pork, and processed meats are irradiated. Let us also assume that these foods are the source of 50% of foodborne E. coli O157, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria and Toxoplasma infections. The potential benefit of the irradiation would be a 25% reduction in the morbidity and mortality rate caused by these infections. This estimated net benefit is substantial, as the measure could prevent nearly 900,000 cases of infection, 8,500 hospitalizations, over 6,000 catastrophic illnesses, and 350 deaths each year. With this estimate we assume that heavily contaminated meat is just as likely to be treated with irradiation as meat which is less contaminated. This estimate does not include the impact on other known pathogens these foods may contain, such as Yersinia enterocolitica and those yet to be identified. This estimate also does not account for the benefits of using irradiation to treat other foods, such as fresh produce that can also be a source of infection."

With people getting sick and dying because of eating food they thought was safe, irradiation should be used as a routine practice to make "safe" food safer.
FEATURED ARTICLE: Using irradiation to make safe food safer: (Part I)
MYTH of the MONTH:"Irradiation is too effective and irradiation is not effective enough." By Russell Stein

Myth:

"Irradiation is too effective and irradiation is not effective enough."


Reality:

This statement is incorrect.  The effects of irradiating food are proportionate to the dose, and the dose is controlled during the process.  Therefore, the effectiveness of irradiation is defined for each specific application


This myth appears to be two myths that are strung together for convenience, but that is not the case.  The myth is based on the argument that irradiation is too effective because, since it can be used to kill all pathogens, then it will be used to replace all Good Manufacturing Practices including sanitation.  And, at the same time, if it is not used to kill all of the pathogens, then it is not effective enough.
 
There are many methods for reducing pathogens in food.  A specific method only kills a percentage of the pathogens when properly applied.  This is common for chemicals used during the processing of the food, and/or as additives applied to the food.  For example, washing the food in highly chlorinated water will reduce the pathogens, but not eliminate them.  There are also several methods for eliminating pathogens in food.  For example, canning, when applied properly, will kill all of the pathogens.  We do not hear that pathogen reduction techniques "are not effective enough" and, similarly we do not hear that pathogen elimination techniques "are too effective".  For most processes, there are threshold conditions.  If the conditions are not met, such as chemical concentration or temperature or pressure etc., then the effect on the pathogens is inconclusive.
 
Irradiation has its advantages and its disadvantages.  One clear advantage is that the effect on pathogens is proportional to the irradiation dose to those pathogens.  However, the correlation of the effect from the dose is not linear, but logarithmic.    If a specific dose reduces the pathogen population from 100 to 10 in a sample of product, and you double that dose, the pathogens are reduced to 1.  If you triple the original dose, then there would only be 0.1 pathogens surviving (or one pathogen in ten samples of product).  We refer to the dose required to reduce the population of a specific pathogen by a factor of 10, the "Dvalue", the letter "D" representing "decimal reduction", or factor of 10.  If you give a product the Dvalue dose, you will reduce the pathogen by one "log" (another way of saying a factor of 10).  Therefore doubling the dose results in a "two log reduction".  Tripling: a "three log reduction", etc.
 
Consequently, you can customize the dose based on the population of target pathogens.  You can use the process as a pathogen reduction technique by applying perhaps a one log reduction (a 90% effective kill) or two log reduction (99%).  This may be employed in conjunction with other pathogen reduction techniques.  Or, you can use it as a technique to kill all of the pathogens, "sterilizing" the product similar to canning; a twelve log reduction (99.9999999999%).  More commonly, the process is used to "pasteurize" the product, which is typically a five log reduction (99.999%).
 
The cost of the process is somewhat proportional to the dose.  The higher the dose the higher the cost.  Also, if there are any negative effects on the product from irradiation there may be a dose that cannot be exceeded.  Thus, there are definite advantages in keeping the dose as low as practical as long as they are sufficient for achieving the intended purpose of the irradiation.  For products that have a pathogen requiring a dose that has a negative effect on a specific product or a dose that costs too much for the market to bear for that product, then the process will not be used on that specific product.
 
Is irradiation too effective?  Is irradiation not effective enough?  Irradiation is as effective as it needs to be.
Link to article...  

Russell N. Stein

GRAY*STAR, Inc.

www.GrayStarInc.com

Also in the News: Vietnam eyes US $2 billion produce market...Thanks to irradiation; VNS, Hanoi, (May 5, 2015):
During the first quarter of 2015, Vietnam has increased fruit exports by 13 percent over last year. Exports of fruits and vegetables reached $274 million.

HA NOI (VNS) - Viet Nam expects to reach a total export value of US$2 billion for fruits and vegetables this year, an official of the Viet Nam Vegetable and Fruit Association (Vinafruit) said.


Huynh Quang Dau, Vinafruit deputy chairman, said Viet Nam's export value of fruits and vegetables had seen strong growth in recent times, reported kinhtenongthon.com.vn.


The export value reached $1.47 billion in 2014, much higher than the $500 million earned in 2013, due to the expansion of the export market.

In the first quarter of this year, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) said the nation had gained a year-on-year increase of 13 per cent in the export value of fruits and vegetables, amounting to $274 million.

The Southern Fruit and Plant Research Institute said the strong growth was due to high demand for fruit in many countries, including the US, which has opened its market to some new kinds of fruit from Viet Nam, such as longans, litchis, rambutan and dragon fruit.


Additionally, many other markets saw double or triple the demand against the same period last year, including South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, it said.

The export value of fruits and vegetables would continue increasing sharply this year, Dau said, because many more kinds of Vietnamese fruits and vegetables would start approaching strict export markets such as the US, Australia, the EU and Japan.


New Zealand has also permitted imports of Vietnamese dragon fruit and has considered opening its market to Vietnamese mangos in the coming period, he said.


South Korea has continued importing milk fruit and plans to import other kinds of fruit as well, including bananas, chillis and jack fruit, from Viet Nam after treating it with irradiation technology.

Many other markets such as the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada have had high demand for the Vietnamese buoi hong da xanh (green-peel and pink-flesh) grapefruit, he said.


This year, Viet Nam has a great chance of exporting more fruit to the US after the US Department of Agriculture last year issued import licences for fresh Vietnamese litchis and longans, Dau said.


In March 2015, Viet Nam's Plant Protection Department provided the first 10 codes for regions growing litchis in the northern region of Viet Nam that reach the conditions for exporting to the US.


The north of Viet Nam does not have a US-certified factory for packing fruit or the proper irradiation machines, so the fresh litchis must be transported to the south of the country for packing and irradiation activities before the fruit can be exported to the US.


Litchis have the potential for high export value if local enterprises market their product well, improve the quality of the fruit after harvest, handle packaging and preservation, and build a brand for the fruit, he said.


The association has proposed that the government and MARD should plan to create regions especially for fruits and vegetables that meet VietGAP standards for export and should manage the use of plant protection drugs and chemicals.

This would ensure the production of clean fruits and vegetables reaching the food hygiene and safety standards of the world market, he said. - VNS

Also in the News: Vietnam given approval to export irradiation-treated lychees to Australia, ABC Rural News (May 11, 2015):

approved the importation of irradiation treated lychees and informed Australian importers

of the decision May 12.

 

It comes just in time for Vietnam's 2015 lychee harvest, which will commence in the next few weeks and last until the middle of July.


Consignments of Vietnamese lychees are permitted to be air or sea freighted to Australia and must be inspected on arrival. 

The Vietnamese government is hoping this will be the first of many tropical fruits it can export, including mangoes and dragon fruit.


Head of Australia's Lychee Growers Association, Derek Foley, from Electra, Queensland, said he was not worried about Vietnamese imports competing with local fruit. 

"We're not against the import of lychees, it won't clash with our season, which is Christmas (time)," Mr Foley said.

 

Audio: Australia grants import approval for Vietnamese lychees after 12 years. Australian Lychee Growers Derek Foley still waiting for access to China (ABC Rural)


Consignments of Vietnamese lychees are permitted to be air or sea freighted to Australia and must be inspected on arrival. 

The Vietnamese government is hoping this will be the first of many tropical fruits it can export, including mangoes and dragon fruit.

 

"Australian lychee growers would like to see good quality lychees coming into Australia." Mr Foley said the reputation of lychees had been spoilt when China exported vapour heat treated lychees to Australia in 2005.


"Vapour heat treatment is not kind to lychees, and it came by boat. 

"Unfortunately the whole trade collapsed because of the vapour heat treatment and Australia is still trying to get access to China.


"We're asking if the protocol can be irradiation, and reciprocal arrangements."

Australia's lychee industry is worth $20 million annually and the industry exports irradiated fruit to New Zealand and has recently been granted access to the United States.


Mr Foley said the Australian industry is not rapidly expanding its production, but that would change if it gained access to the lucrative Chinese market.

"Beijing could eat our Australian lychee crop for smoko on Monday morning," he said laughing.


Vietnam has not indicated when it will resume imports of Australian fruit, worth $40 million a year, which were stopped in January 2015 because of fruit fly concerns. 

Link to Article...

Russian firm Rosatom and Hindustan Agro to set up irradiation plants for food preservation; The Economic Times; Jayashree Bhosale, (May 6, 2015):
The Russian firm Rosatom will partner with Maharashtra's Agro-Cooperative to build a food irradiation facility.
PUNE, INDIA: A joint venture company set up by Rosatom, a Russian firm which works in the nuclear power sector, with Maharashtra's Hindustan Agro Co-operative will help increase the shelf life of agri-commodities such as vegetables, foods, cereals and pulses.

The venture plans to invest Rs 4000 crore-Rs 4,500 crore in the next five years to set up 25 integrated irradiation plants with advanced cold storage facilities in India, Mauritius, the Middle East and Malaysia.

Rosatom shortlisted Ahmednagar-based Hindustan Agro-Coperative, a co-operative of 32,000 farmers, after Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit in December 2014. The memorandum of understanding was signed in February 2015, while the project development agreement was done in the presence of Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadanvis on May 1. Two consultants are currently evaluating the project.

Hindustan Agro has been engaged in dairy, aquaculture, contract farming and export of fruits and vegetables, and has been operating an irradiation plant from 2007 with the help of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai, apart from operating the BARC irradiator at Lasalgaon.

"We plan to set up 25 mega plants of 35,000 tonne/annum to 40,000 tonne/annum capacity in the next 5 years," said Bharat Dhokane Patil, founder chairman, Hindustan Agro Co-operative.

Irradiation technology for food preservation makes use of low doses of Cobalt -60 radiation. In India, BARC supplies this material.

Dr Anil Kakodkar, former chairman, Atomic Energy Commission of India, said, "Irradiation helps increase the shelf life of perishable food items, which will help farmers get wider market access and bring price stability. It is particularly useful for Indian horticulture, where serious price fluctuations occur."

He added that irradiation is a very safe technology. "The World Health Organisation, Food and Agricultural Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency have approved safety of the technology."

Of the proposed 20 projects in India, three are expected to come up in Madhya Pradesh for cereals and pulses. Jimmy Olssson from Sweden, senior advisor to Hindustan Agro Co-operative, said, "Each plant will have grading, processing, packaging, cold storage and export facility. We will offer premium price to farmers."

Irradiation helps increase the shelf life of onions and potatoes to about six- 8 months as it discourages sprouting. However, the demonstration plant of BARC at Lasalgaon was not so popular among farmers. The Lasalgaon facility was used for irradiating mangoes to be exported to the United States as the country accepts only irradiated mangoes.

The Maharashtra government has set up a new irradiation facility near Mumbai for the convenience of exporters. However, most of the private sector irradiation facilities in the country are used mainly for sterlisation of surgical equipment/aids than for food preservation. 
 

 

 

USDA must tighten up its oversight at chicken processing plants: Editorial; The Oregonian/OregonLive  (May 9, 2015):

 


Foster Farms Chicken Raising Facility at Livingston, California
Salmonella is commonly found in poultry and is a serious cause of food borne illness

 

Salmonella persists, putting onto the front lines of food safety inspectors who view carcasses at a dizzying rate.
  

If you ever doubted the capacity of the federal government to function in a timely manner in protecting those to whom it is sworn to protect, consider that hundreds of people in Oregon and Washington got sick from eating chicken over the last decade despite detailed reports by state health officials to federal officials that they could. Consider, too, that product recalls of the sort that could prevent salmonella-exposure illnesses are few and far between, in part owing to the inability of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to order them.

An exhaustive report by Lynne Terry of The Oregonian/OregonLive shows state health officials linked salmonella outbreaks in 2004, 2009 and 2012 to the chicken producer Foster Farms, with a Kelso, Washington, processing plant fed by chicken farmers from across the Pacific Northwest. Among other things, Terry unmasks caution on the part of factory inspectors and outright fear among agency brass. She attributes to union officials who represent inspectors nationally the assertion that on-site inspectors at chicken plants are "pressured to go easy on food processors, citing one notable case in which the USDA transferred an inspector after Foster Farms complained he wrote too many citations." Separately, she writes: "USDA officials are so worried about being sued by companies that they've set a high bar for evidence, even rejecting samples of tainted chicken that state health agencies believed would help clinch their case...."


Salmonella's threat is by now well known. The bacteria starts in chicken feces, including from chicks, and can live and multiply all the way through bird life and production to the dining table if chicken meat is not cooked through to 165 degrees. But at the chicken factory, USDA inspectors have only tested chicken carcasses for salmonella, leaving the edible thighs, legs and breasts unchecked - this as Americans set the pace worldwide for chicken consumption at 84 pounds per capita annually. So salmonella persists, putting onto the front lines of food safety site inspectors who view carcasses at a dizzying rate but cannot possibly test enough birds in a domestic industry that processes 9 billion chickens a year.

The options are few, it seems. Reliable irradiation of raw food, approved for use by federal regulators years ago, continues to face popular opposition in the marketplace as damaging to food, and so chicken producers are left to douse raw dead birds at the factory with a cocktail of antimicrobial agents. A labor-intensive approach taken in Denmark, in which hand-washing and worker clothing-changes are frequent, Terry reported last year, proves successful but is expensive; with a goal of zero salmonella in chicken meat, Denmark's threshold is at odds with the USDA's goal of merely curbing salmonella exposure. To that end, USDA announced in January a limit on salmonella in chicken parts, figuring it would help prevent 50,000 illnesses annually nationwide - an outcome not to be achieved for up to five years, however, keeping the window open to potentially more salmonella outbreaks. The end game of federal policy is plain: It's up to the consumer to do final salmonella cleanup by washing and cooking chicken thoroughly.

 

Most galling is USDA's toothlessness. In a 2012 salmonella outbreak that surged in Oregon and Washington, chicken from Foster Farms' Kelso plant, as well as another in Fresno, California, was persuasively implicated after sample collection and testing by a Washington inspector. Terry reported: "A supervisor in the USDA's district office in Denver questioned whether the salmonella test results were 'necessarily the silver bullet' in an investigation. In a separate email a few minutes later, the supervisor had a different message: 'Reason I asked is that apparently Foster Farms brought the heavy hitter law firm in. I don't know the name but I understand they are not taking this lightly.'"


Nobody's taking it lightly. Foster Farms insists it leads the industry in cleanliness. But state-level public health officials, quick to respond to calls indicating food-borne illness, report their findings to federal authorities who allow weeks and months to pass and consumers to fall ill.


The situation could improve if USDA and elected officials were to take seriously

recommendations issued in April by the Consumer Federation of America, which chided USDA for failing to adequately implement federal inspection directives issued following the lethal 1993 outbreak of E.coli 0157:H7 linked to hamburgers sold at a Jack in the Box restaurant. The federation correctly urges USDA to delineate procedures and punishments for recurring food safety violations in chicken processing plants. And the federation wisely argues the agency's food inspection service should seek from Congress the authority to set and enforce performance standards for pathogen reduction.


If these measures seem rational, they are. If they seem simple, apparently they're not. But sick and dying people should be more than enough to make them a reality. 

Link to article...

Also read PBS documentary looks at salmonella in poultry...

Radurafoodirradiation.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 
Ronald F. Eustice | 13768 Trost Trail | Savage, | MN | 55378

 



 
 

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