Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
June 2017
Food Irradiation Update is published monthly by Ronald F. Eustice, a food quality & safety assurance consultant based in Tucson, Arizona. He can be reached at:
and at 612.202.1016
Looking South for Opportunity: From Hawaii to Vietnam, Thailand to Mexico, Australia to India, growers around the world are benefiting from irradiation protocols to ship certain tropical fruits to the USA. Caribbean and Central American countries are also beginning to use irradiation for market access. Unfortunately, these protocols are virtually absent in South America where the growing regions mostly depend on out-dated treatments such as cold temperatures, hot vapor or methyl bromide. That needs to change and it's time for our South American friends to take note of the success that has happened elsewhere. The feature article below is about Colombia but Ecuador and other countries are seriously looking into irradiation. Who's next? Irradiation is here and it's not going away. Ahora es el tiempo!  
Featured Article: Colombia considers irradiation to boost U.S.-bound fruit exports; Freshfruit Portal (May 18, 2017):
One of the most intriguing things about Colombia is the diversity of its fruit.
From Hawaii to Vietnam, Thailand to Mexico, Australia to India, growers around the world have benefited from irradiated protocols for the continental United States in order to ship certain tropical fruits in better condition. In South America however these arrangements are virtually absent, with growing regions mostly depending on pest-free statuses or alternative treatments like subjecting the fruit to cold temperatures, hot vapor or methyl bromide.

Export growth from across the continent shows existing protocols are working well, but it always helps to have options.

"There has been progress in conversations about the issue of the possibility of irradiation between Colombia and the United States as a mitigation measure," says Juan Camilo Barrera, food, beverage and floral director at trade promotion agency ProColombia USA.

"This would obviously open the doors to an additional alternative...for example in papayas which are difficult for us to send to the United States; they currently have to be immersed in hot water.

"The same would occur for example with dragonfruit which needs hot vapor treatment."
Barrera believes the approval of an irradiation protocol would be a useful add-on for an already growing basket of Colombian horticultural goods for the U.S. market.

Bananas and plantains are currently by far the leading fruit export category from Colombia to the U.S. with a value of US$179.6 million last year, and volumes are expected to continue growing in recovery from weather issues in 2014.

But it is perhaps Colombia's non-banana fruit export portfolio that has attracted the most attention in recent years, with U.S.-bound exports rising from US$2.5 million in 2011 to US$5.9 million last year, with goldenberries, pineapples, limes and yams among the leading success stories. 

He adds fresh vegetable exports to the U.S. have also jumped in that time, increasing from US$6 million to US$12.5 million with the bulk of volume coming from aromatic herbs such as basil, thyme, oregano and bay leaves; an industry that has largely "piggybacked" off the floral industry. 

These figures however only represent a small fraction of Colombia's growth in fruit and vegetable production, with Europe cementing itself as the top export market outside the banana trade.

"They mature in Europe and then they come and work on the U.S. market," Barrera says, adding this has mostly been the case as for the most part plant health protocols in Europe tend to be more viable.

Two of the crops where this potential is most visible are in Hass avocados and the passiflora fruits (purple passionfruit, maracuy√° passionfruit and granadilla), which both saw substantial jumps in export values worldwide last year - avocados exports rose 239% to reach US$35 million while passionfruit shipments were up 15% at US$29 million.

Neither of these fruits are yet able to be exported to the U.S. from Colombia, however Barrera is hopeful the country will give final approval for avocado market access this year.
"This depends obviously on the process from the new government of the United States, which is on hold a bit but that's normal with any administration," he says.

"Other products on the list, but not in any particular order, include watermelons, tomatoes, peppers and the passiflora fruits.

"It's not just about gaining access but increasing our participation; there are some products where Europe is the best market because of aspects like price and post-harvest treatment, but there are other ones that are under revision for strengthening like cassava in the United States."
MYTH of the MONTH: "Irradiation is too expensive." By Russell Stein
"Irradiation is too Expensive."
There is no such thing as a free irradiated lunch.  However, irradiation processing is not as expensive as many believe.
For all goods and services, one can breakdown the costs into two categories: "fixed costs" and "variable costs".  Fixed costs are those that do not rely on the amount of products or services produced.  Building and equipment costs are typically "fixed".  On the other hand, costs that increase with increased production are "variable".  Typically these include raw material costs and hourly wages.
The costs for irradiation facilities are almost all fixed costs.  There are very few variable costs associated with the process.  The primary reason is that irradiation is a process involving no raw materials.
Initial capital requirements for an irradiation facility are relatively high.  The cost for a commercial irradiator starts at over a million dollars and can typically cost several million dollars, depending on production capacity.  This is a fixed cost.  The amount of time and expense to train irradiator operators is most cost effective if they are employed full time; whether or not product is being processed.  This is also a fixed cost.  For gamma facilities, the cobalt-60 source is bought in increments and it is depleted whether or not the irradiator is processing product.  Once again, a fixed cost.  E-beam and X-ray irradiators use electricity to generate their radiation.  For these irradiators, a major portion of their electricity costs are variable, but most of their other costs are fixed.
With most of the costs fixed, the cost to process a pound of product will depend on how many pounds of product are processed.  Simplistically, if the fixed costs are $1,000,000 per year and only one pound is processed, then the cost/pound is $1,000,000!  However, with the same fixed costs, processing 100,000,000 pounds, the cost would only be $0.01 per pound.
Therefore, the trick to economically operating an irradiator is to run as much product through as practical. That is why most commercial irradiators try to operate 24/7/365.
If a company has enough product to irradiate, then it may be cost effective to purchase and operate their own irradiator.  The more product, the lower the cost.  On the other hand, if they do not have enough product to cover their fixed costs, then it will probably be more cost effective to contract with a service irradiation facility.  However, a service facility has some costs that are greater than would be incurred by an in-house facility such as having to deal with multiple regulatory agencies due to the variety of products they may be irradiating.  An in-house facility would only have to deal with regulators specific to their product.  Contract services also have to have irradiation sales staffs, marketing, warehousing facilities and other components not required by in-house processors. And, the service providers need to generate a profit.  Therefore the price/pound of using a service facility will be significantly higher than the cost/pound for an in-house facility assuming the in-house facility has a sufficient volume of product to process.
The relative expense of the product is dependent on the volume of the product being irradiated.  However, how "expensive" it is depends on the value added by the process to the product.
If the benefit of irradiation is greater than the cost of the irradiation, then the process is not expensive.  Today, many foods are one must conclude that it is not as expensive as many believe.
Russell Stein 
Also in the News: Chicken Irradiation; Next? Rob Drinkwater, Canadian Press (May 28, 2017):
Irradiation of chicken can help save lives. 
Calls for chicken irradiation in Canada following approval for ground beef 
OTTAWA: A consumer advocate is pushing Ottawa to promote the irradiation of chicken to kill illness-causing bugs and to do a better job of getting buyers on board.

Bruce Cran of the Consumers Association of Canada said the federal government has done "an incompetent job" informing Canadians that irradiation is safe and he worries that a lack of action could lead to a deadly outbreak. "They need to promote an understanding so Canadians can make an informed choice, and they're not doing that for whatever reason," Cran said. "This is not only a safe practice, it's one that many of us would like to be able to use."

Earlier this year, the federal government approved the sale of ground beef treated with radiant energy similar to X-rays to reduce the risk of illnesses caused by E. coli and salmonella. The products must be labelled to include an international symbol on packaging - usually a green plant inside a circle.

The U.S. has allowed meat to be treated for years, but that country's Food and Drug Administration has noted that consumers' acceptance has been slowed by confusion over how irradiation works and what it does. It notes some people believe it makes food radioactive.

"Our members would absolutely support it," said Robin Horel, president of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council. "But we haven't pushed hard because ... the companies that produce chicken and turkey are concerned about what the consumer response would be."

Anna Madison, a spokeswoman for Health Canada, said in an email the federal government would not promote irradiation since it does not engage in promotional activities. The federal department last examined irradiation for poultry in the early 2000s, but it did not amend regulations to allow it because of concerns from some stakeholders.
Karen Graham, who chaired a panel of Canadian dietitians in the 1980s that considered the issue, said irradiated foods lose vitamin B and fats such as healthy omega-3 are broken down. It can also kill healthy bacteria.

Critics also claim irradiation produces toxins, such as benzene, and changes the taste of meat. "There aren't consumers with placards saying give us irradiation. This is very much industry driven," Graham said in an interview from Kelowna, B.C.

Dr. Rick Holley, University of Manitoba 
Rick Holley, professor emeritus of food microbiology and food safety at University of Manitoba, said irradiation is safe and is even more important for chicken than for ground beef. Chicken causes more illness in Canada, he said. Holley said salmonella is naturally present on a lot of chicken and the gastro-intestinal bacteria campylobactor is present on all of it, regardless of whether a bird is free-range or factory.

"Both of these organisms occasionally kill, but because they make more people ill who recover, then the emphasis is not placed on them to the same extent as E. coli O157 in hamburger," said Holley, who suggested that irradiating chicken could cut food-related illness in Canada by 25 per cent.

"The political will is certainly there, but it will only move forward in this regard when consumers are made aware of the extent of the problem and the fact that irradiation is such a suitable solution."

The Health Canada review noted an unpleasant odour with doses of irradiation higher than the one that was being considered for fresh chicken, but the smell was more likely to be noticed by experienced judges than average consumers. It also said the smell disappeared after a few days or after cooking.
Monique Lacroix (center) is a Canadian food safety expert and a leading advocate of irradiation. 

Monique Lacroix, a researcher (at center) at the Canadian Irradiation Centre and at INRS-Institute Armand Frappier in Laval, Que., said in an interview last year that irradiation done at the low levels proposed by the meat industry, doesn't increase benzene or free radicals in an amount to be of concern. She noted that barbecuing meat produces billions of free radicals.
Also in the News: CAC Wants Government To Properly Promote Irradiation Of Chickens; By Adam Bell; Blackburn News (May 31, 2017):
Chicken meat is a significant source of salmonella. Irradiation can reduce salmonella by at least 99.9%.
Consumers Association of Canada member Bruce Cran is pushing for Ottawa to promote the irradiation of chickens, saying the federal government has done an "incompetent job" of informing Canadians that irradiation is safe.

President of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council Robin Horel says members support irradiation, but are concerned about what the consumer response would be.

Earlier this year, the federal government approved the sale of ground beef treated with radiant energy similar to X-rays to reduce the risk of illnesses caused by E. coli and salmonella.
Also in the News: Ionics SA officially opens a second gamma irradiator in Argentina (May 2017):
BUENOS AIRES: In presence of numerous officials and customers, Ionics SA opened their second gamma irradiator on March 29, 2017 near Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The first gamma irradiator of Ionics SA, a company partly owned by the DS Group of Belgium, has been in operation for 25 years. Eight million dollars were invested in the new unit that has a capacity of 1.5 MCi. The Argentinian irradiation market continues to grow and Ionics expects that the new food irradiation regulations that Argentina should adopt very soon will considerably increase the food segment.
Their website is: 
Innova Agri gets approval from Australia to export India mangoes; The Hindu Business Line of India  (May 15, 2017):
Irradiated Indian Mangoes from Kay Bee Exports have arrived in Australia.
BENGALURU, INDIA: Innova Agri Bio Park, a third-party gamma irradiation facility at Malur, near Bengaluru, has received the Australian government's approval to process and export Indian mangoes Down Under.

Mangoes treated at Innova's facility will now qualify for the phytosanitary and food-standard requirement for entry into Australia, and the first shipment is expected to begin next week, said KS Ravi, Director, Innova Agri Bio Park.

"In the current mango season, Innova Agri Bio Park aims to export nearly 300 tonnes of gamma-irradiated mangoes to Australia from its Malur facility. Besides, our exporters are using our facility to export to Europe and West Asia," Ravi said.
Innova's facility has also been approved by the US Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority in India.
Also in the News: Mango exporters participate in buyer's fair; Business Standard News (May 15, 2017):
Mangoes are an important export for India. Irradiation is helping to open markets worldwide.
Twenty one leading importers from China, Iran, Japan, Australia, Mauritius, Republic of Korea and UAE, participated in the Mango Buyer Seller meet(BSM) organized by APEDA today. More than 100 exporters from across the country participated in the Buyer Seller meet. One of the leading importers M/s Dalian Yidufrom China having a chain of stores interacted with the Indian exporters and expressed his positive response towards the Indian fruit offered. 

Some of the leading exporters such as M/s Bombay Exports, M/s Asar Brothers, Kaybee Exports, etc. informed about the very good response during the BSM. Another important highlight of the event was wet sampling of different commercial varieties of mango like, Alphonso, Kesar, Banganpalli, Totapuri, Dussheri, Langda, Chausa, etc. Local indigenous varieties of mango like SelamGundu, Mallika, Peter, Rumani, Neelam, HimamPasand, Mulgoa, Kundath, ArkaAnmol, Fazli, etc. 

State horticulture departments from ten mango producing states displayed wide range of varieties grown in respective states. These states were provided with stall for showcasing their products along with their strengths. APEDA showcased range of fresh fruits at its pavilion to sensitize the importers about the offerings by India in fresh sector. Along with the fresh fruits segment, value added products of mango such as MangoPulp, Pickles, Chutneys, Jams & Jellies, Juices, etc. were also displayed. 

The event was inaugurated by Mr. AlokVardhanChaturvedi, Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Commerce & Industry and was joined by Mr. DK Singh, Chairman APEDA, Dr. Shakil P Ahammed, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture &Farmers Welfare, Mr. KadireGowda, Managing Director, Karnataka State Mango Development and Marketing Corporation, Mr. ChiranjivChaudhary, Commissioner Horticulture, Andhra Pradesh, Ms. MadhumitaSinha Ray, Commissioner Horticulture, West Bengal and senior officers from various State Governments.

On the second day of the BSM, visit of importers to the common infrastructure facilities in Mumbai is being organized to showcase the Indias capability to export quality and pest free produce which will create confidence among the importers.These facilities included, Gamma Irradiation facility, Hot water treatment facility, Vapor Heat treatment facility and integrated pack house. 
Kesar mangoes from India exported by Kay Bee Exports to many countries.
Also in the News: PrimePro packaging helps boost irradiation; Fresh Plaza (June 9, 2017):
Grant and Ian Ferguson
In 2015, PrimePro Core won the Best New Food Packaging Award for Best New Packaging in Barcelona, Spain. Chantler Packaging, the company that developed PrimePro technology, has now expanded its product range. "We're using PrimePro technology and ethylene-absorbing abilities, as well as quality-improving and shelf life-extending attributes, and we're using this tech-based film and are applying it to other products," explains Grant Ferguson.

PrimePro started with sheets to be used in boxes, but it expanded fast with pallet covers, carton liners and more. With PrimePro Core the technology is laminated to paperboard. "That's the product that we're now expanding on to be more cost-effective and more sustainable. We've taken PrimePro material and laminated it into a simple paperboard structure. It's mainly used for speciality tomatoes, vine tomatoes, peaches, pears and apples," Grant explains. Companies wishing to use PrimePro, don't have to introduce new packaging technology. "They can just replace their current tray with our PrimePro trays.

An enormous amount of food is wasted globally. "We needed to branch out, and this product communicates food waste reduction into people's minds. Consumers can see they're contributing to limiting this problem when they use our product. Millennials make up 40 per cent of shoppers in North America, and they want to know they're making a positive contribution on the environment. They therefore want this technology. Millennials want to make a difference."

PrimePro's irradiation packaging has been approved by the USDA. The irradiation bags have a specialised micro-perforation pattern that allows venting but is also effective when the bag is sealed. "For a lot of Peruvian growers, it'll be the first time they'll be able to ship to the US, thanks to our irradiation technology. This product was originally developed for pomegranates, but is now also used for figs. Peru has become a major player." Shipping product to markets further away could result in more waste."We think it's good we're taking responsibility for reducing waste," Grant says.

We're working in Africa more, and India is also developing phytosanitary regulations, so that market will also have more potential in future," Grant explains. "However, Spain remains our main hub in Europe, but because some Spanish customers have expanded their market, our PrimePro product is also sent to, for example, Singapore. Canada and the northwest of the US are focusing more on Mexico, so we're developing that market. Guanajuato State exports 80 per cent of its products to the US, but they're also looking for other markets. We're very proud to help them take ownership of their product." 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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