Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
June 2018
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 
Rising tides lift all boats!
The aphorism "a rising tide lifts all boats" is associated with the idea that improvements in a specific endeavor will benefit all participants in that activity, and that words, actions, and deeds should focus on the overall good of an industry first and foremost. 

Those of us who provide food irradiation services must keep that in mind as we discuss and promote the technology. Our goal should be to place more irradiated food on supermarket shelves. The customer doesn't care whether it was irradiated by electron beams or Gamma rays, X-Rays or usually in fact, that it was irradiated. What does matter to the customer is that they are able to purchase products that meet specific needs. 

Remember: We all do better when we all do better! More raduras at the supermarket means we all win!

Featured Article:  Thought for Food; La Republica (May 6, 2018) By Nabin Sharma, Senior Industrial Entomologist at Department of Agriculture, Government of Nepal.
Nabin Sharma
Senior Industrial Entomologist
"If we are to get connected with rest of the world and improve our trade and food security, we must adopt irradiation technology in food processing." 
Nabin Sharma
Agriculture is one of the most vulnerable fields being affected by global climate change. It has affected agriculture at all levels-ranging from seed plantation to harvest and storage. A farmer comes across multiple challenges during production and storage processes. And these insects and diseases are highly sensitive to climate change.

There is a considerable crop loss during production as well as storage processing. It has been estimated that sixty percent more food will be required by 2050 if food losses and wastages remain the same as today. It will be cheaper, wiser  and cost effective to increase the shelf life of crop and food without burdening the global atmosphere with additional stock carbon rather than to produce same amount of crop or food. 

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an international body for assessing the science related to climate change. Working group II of IPCC assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems including food. In its fifth assessment in 2014, IPCC revealed that most research is focused on food production, but there is a lack of scientific research and literature on non-production aspects. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations had estimated that in 2016 the number of undernourished people in the world would be approximately 815 million up from 777 million in 2015.

Crop losses due to insect infestation is a huge cost worldwide.  Insect pests are easily destroyed by irradiation. Irradiation not only destroys the pests but also extends product shelf-life.
Damage control 
Insects and diseases have posed big challenge to farmers in production and storage process throughout the history. Insects spread crop and other animal diseases thereby damaging the crops. It has been estimated that the damage caused by insects alone amounts to more than 70 billion US dollars annually.  As an effect of climate change, these deleterious insects are moving into a new place where they couldn't survive previously. The major means through which these insects move from one place to another are crops on which they feed, grow and reproduce.

To check this movement, authorities from different countries have implemented strict quarantine measures across international as well as national boundaries. This can be restricted by treating crops and food items with safe and acceptable technology. 

Irradiation will eliminate insect pests from produce and extend shelf life.
Food irradiation is one of the safest treatments which has been used for the last 50 years by other countries. In Nepal, it is almost nil. Food irradiation is a process of exposing food and food packaging to ionizing radiation from gamma rays, x-rays or electron beams, an energy that can be transmitted without direct contact to the source of the energy. The purpose is to reduce the incidence of food borne diseases, improve food security and protect trade through effective sterilization of deleterious insect-pests of economic significance and provide shelf-stable emergency rations. 

Initially food irradiation was used to treat and ensure safety of high value crops like spices, fishes, meat and emergency rations used by armed forces during the war and during the natural calamities. After its successful use, it has been applied in fresh fruits and vegetables as well. Food irradiation does not only prevent the spreading of insects and diseases, but also increases the shelf life of food contributing to minimize the post-harvest losses. 

More than 60 countries have approved one or more types of food irradiation. About 30 countries use food irradiation in practice, but for commercial use is limited-only 12 countries have commercially used it. Capital cost to establish irradiation plant, centralized facilities often far from crop production sites and slow switch from radioactive sources of radiation to electrical, machine based sources are technical reasons identified so far for slow uptake of food irradiation. 
Many new technologies took decades to become well-established. Pasteurization took 70 years, transistors and I/C took 30 years before it was used it wide scale in personal computers (PCs), and 60 years before everyday use by everyone in smart phones and internet of things. 

Widely held perception about irradiated food is that consumer will refuse to buy it. So we need to 'educate' the consumers. From 1960-2010, irradiation was mainly used for de-contamination of spices, herbs and dehydrated vegetables. As such, consumers are generally unaware of it.

Need for Nepal 
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in association with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has developed and promoted nuclear technologies in agriculture to ensure food security and fight against hunger and malnutrition with sustainable environment protection. IAEA has supported its member countries to apply these nuclear techniques in livestock improvement, food safety and quality, plant breeding, insect pest control, land and water management and climate smart agriculture. 
As a member country of IAEA Nepal can also benefit from it. But so far, few small projects in plant breeding use irradiation technology with financial support from IAEA. In lack of institutional setup, these technologies have not received much attention from the higher authorities.

There is a growing need for food irradiation in Nepal
In South Asia, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have 15, two, one and two radiation service delivery plants respectively. China has more than 180 radiation service providing plants. According to an estimate, around 0.03 percent of 3.9 billion tonnes of food produced each year is irradiated. 

If we are to get connected with rest of the world and improve our trade and food security, we must adopt irradiation technology in food processing. This is more necessary than a ship with Nepali flag on the Pacific Ocean, our own satellite in the space and water transportation in Koshi River. 
The author is a Senior Industrial Entomologist at Department of Agriculture, Government of Nepal

MYTH of the MONTH: "Talk is Cheap." By Russell Stein

FALSE.  Not so cheap!  
The next time you are at a conference or forum discussing any aspect of food irradiation, look around and count the number of attendees.  Most likely, during the meeting, there are more people sitting in that room than there are people actively irradiating food in the whole country where the meeting is taking place.
We talk about what we might irradiate in the future.  Why don't we talk about what we are irradiating and can irradiate right now?  Today?  Tomorrow?  Next Tuesday? Right now, food is being irradiated for various purposes around the world.  ...perhaps only a short distance away from where you are reading this.  
If you want something irradiated, send it to a commercial service irradiation facility.  If you want a lot of something irradiated, consider purchasing an irradiator yourself.  Both options exist.  Right Now! For many food products, utilizing various irradiation processes, the commercial path is clear.
Often the discussions are about researching new processes using irradiation.  Research is the first step for new applications of irradiation technology.  Research can, and must, be continued.  However, we should also be taking advantage of past research that has already cleared the path to commercialization.
Similarly we need ongoing discussions with government regulators to assure that foods currently being irradiated are compliant.  And, and we must encourage government officials to move forward with approvals for more food products and processes that have been determined safe.  Government oversight must be continued to keep the commercial path clear and credible.
Sometimes there are discussions involving the actual experiences of people having their products irradiated or the experiences of the people irradiating the product.  These are valuable because they provide a map of the path to commercialization.  Unfortunately, these discussions are rare because too often those with the knowledge are too busy irradiating actual product to attend the meeting and their comments are often restricted for proprietary reasons

Good path.  Good discussions.  But wait, there's more!  The "more" is the greatest hurdle in the path to commercialization. Commercial irradiation processing already exists.  There is more discussion on "new and improved" irradiation technologies than discussions on commercialized technology.  Although there will always be improvements with any commercial process, spending all of our time, money and effort on the "future" will not accomplish anything in the present. Too many projects, to commercialize food irradiation, have failed to even begin because they were waiting on an unproven, "new technology".  If these projects had utilized existing technology and existing resources, more foods would currently be irradiated.    
The more we talk, the less food we irradiate.  Words do not kill pathogens, irradiation does. Talk is expensive.
Russell Stein 
California fig grower sees success from Mexican trade; 
Fresh Plaza (May 21, 2018), By Dennis Rettke

California-based grower Vertical Foods has declared their first Mexico fig season a success. The company, which also grows figs in California and imports them from Chile, launched their Mexico fig deal last November, with the conclusion at the end of April. Along with some of the more obvious advantages compared with the Chilean deal, Vertical Foods also found some unexpected benefits.

This year we had a successful Mexican black fig season," explained Vertical Foods' Casey Hollnagel. "It was our first year, and it directly competes with the Chilean season. We grow them in Morelos, a region quite close to Mexico City. USDA regulations stipulate that fruit from this region must be irradiated before entering the United States. We found that this process killed all of the pathogens from the figs and eliminated microorganisms and insects. As a result, we observed the figs had a longer shelf life. This is as opposed to figs from Chile, which need to be fumigated with methyl bromide. Part of this process involves raising the temperature before dropping it back down. Unfortunately, figs are very sensitive and changing the temperature has the consequence of a reduced shelf life."

Hollnagel further noted that bringing in figs from Mexico has the more evident advantage in regards to cost. "Because the figs arrive by land in trucks, and not by air like the Chilean figs, Vertical Foods was able to bring in much larger volumes, and it was obviously much cheaper to do so," he said. "Those savings enabled us to pass them on to our customers. Moving forward, we can see the Mexico deal being a very good alternative."

Preparing for the California crop
Now that the offshore fig season has concluded, Vertical Foods is looking forward to the upcoming California season. Beginning next month, early indications are that the crop is looking good, with possibly a slightly later start than normal. 

"At this stage, the California season looks to be fairly normal," Hollnagel observed. "The fig trees were not affected by any of the freezes or wet weather earlier in the year, as they were dormant at the time. We will be starting off with the Breba crop, which is an early season variety that generally only grows for a very short time. Current predictions are for a start somewhere between June 10 and 15, which would put it about a week behind schedule. Figs are a mysterious fruit and we can only speculate as to why this is the case. Furthermore, things can change very quickly, however right now volume is looking good."

Figs from most areas of Mexico must be treated by irradiation to enter the United States. Vertical Foods LLC is one of the first companies in the US to import irradiated Mexican figs. The results were very satisfactory.
Managing the rapid seasons
Because figs only grow during a relatively short season in California, managing retail programs can become a challenge. Because many big retailers are not as nimble as smaller stores, figs are sometimes found only in those small stores capable and willing to carry them. The market though, is mostly strong, due to good demand and the generally limited availability.

"With the Breba season, because it grows for such a short time, by the time bigger stores are ready to carry them, they're often already finished," Hollnagel remarked. "Sometimes the season can be as short as ten days, so with that time frame, it's very hard to get any sort of programs going. Hence, they are usually sold to wholesalers. The second season, our main crop, can go from four to eight weeks, so with this one we can plan better."

"Although Central Valley figs are yet to commence, there are reports that some growers in the desert have just started their season," he continued. "They will get a premium price for them. For us, because the Mexico deal has finished and created a small gap, it provides a good opportunity to clear out inventories and prevent any crossover before the California season begins next month." 

For more information:
Casey Hollnagel
Vertical Foods LLC
Tel: +1 (559) 743-0100

 Maharashtra mango exports double this season; Fresh Plaza (May 21, 2018)
This export season has been good for mango growers in Maharashtra, senior officials of the Maharashtra State Marketing Board (MSAMB) said. The export of mango to the US market has more than doubled this time from last year at 350 tonne as compared to 54 tonne the previous year. While the first consignment of the season of around 4 tonne has left for the Australian market from Lasalgaon Irradiation Centre in Nashik, officials at MSAMB revealed that more than 7-8 consignments have already left for Australia from other locations. Exports to Japan, Korea and New Zealand have also been on the rise at 12 tonne, 4 tonne and 20 tonne, respectively.

India could not export mangoes to Australia until now due to tough phyto-sanitary conditions that require irradiation treatment and inspection prior to the shipment. A delegation had visited a radiation plant in Maharashtra a couple of years ago and the Australian Biosecurity Import Conditions (Bicon) authority had recently revised its protocol to allow Indian irradiated mango. It has okayed irradiation facility centres at Vashi in Navi Mumbai and Krushak at Lasalgoan (near Nashik).

Interestingly, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) had organised a buyer meet at Mumbai for the promotion of mangoes where exporters were urged to explore new varieties of the fruit, as well as sending them via the sea route. Buyers from 18 countries were part of this meet which saw the participation of Australia, Ghana, Iran and Bahrain, among others. The official from MSAMB said that although Alphanso varieties continue to dominate, other varieties such as Kesar are also getting good response.

In April, the first consignment of Alphanso mangoes from the country had left for the US market from Vashi in Mumbai after getting approvals from American quarantine officials. The first consignment of 16 tonne has been done through KB Exports, Rambo International and Kaushal Continental. Sunil Pawar, MD, Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) had said around 1,500 tonne are likely to be exported to the US, 4,000 tonne to Europe, 20,000 tonne to UAE and 12,000 tonne to other nations. This means a total of 37,500 tonne will be exported from Maharashtra this season, he said. Last year, some 32,500 tonne were exported from Maharashtra, he said, adding that there is a 15% rise in exports this season.

So far, around 600 tonne have been exported from the Vashi centre to Russia, England, Italy and France. Primarily, Alphanso, Kesar, Bangnapalli variety of mangoes are being exported to overseas countries. With a good mango crop this season, alphanso exports from Maharashtra are expected to increase by 15% this year, top officials of MSAMB had said.

During the start of the season, the first consignment of some 12,000 kg of alphansos had left for Italy. South Africa is another new market that is being explored and a delegation was in India last month to explore possible opportunities. Exports to this new market are likely to commence from next season. This year, total production is expected to touch some 4 lakh tonne. Export to the US has begun and also to Australia. Japan and Korea are other markets where Indian alphansos are popular.

MSAMB officials who handle mango export said all facilities are ready for export. Around 1,500 tonne are expected to be exported to the US. All mangoes exported to the US are irradiated at BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) in Mumbai which has a capacity to handle one tonne per hour, the official said.

Maharashtra is the largest mango exporting state in the country and accounts for over 80% of the total exports. For Europe, the produce has to go through hot-water treatment. For South Korea, Pest Risk Analysis is mandatory. Mauritius has already granted market access to Indian mangoes subject to phytosanitary certification. The Marketing Board has established facilities for irradiation, hot water treatment, vapour heat treatment for export to various markets. In Maharashtra, Alphanso, better known as Hapus, starts arriving in markets of Mumbai and Pune by the end of February. Arrivals pick up by mid March and the season usually ends by May.

Oriental fruit flies found in farmlands near Miami, Florida; Miami Herald: (June 5, 2018)
Bactrocera Dorsalis is one of the most invasive and destructive pests in existence. It lays eggs on 430 different fruit, threatens our crops and can be eliminated with irradiation.

MIAMI:  An invasive and destructive pest has been identified in the farmlands near Miami, Florida.  Three male Oriental fruit flies have been found in traps in south Miami-Dade County since Friday, said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam

The state is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to eradicate the flies. They are considered one of the world's most serious agricultural pests because of their potential economic harm.

{ Editor's note: The fruit can be irradiated to a minimum dose of 150 Gy. to prevent the spread of the Oriental Fruit Fly Oriental fruit fly}.

(Bactrocera dorsalis) lays eggs in more than 430 different fruits, vegetables and nuts. An infestation could be particularly damaging for growers of mangoes, lychees and other tropical fruit crops that were battered by Hurricane Irma in September.

Invasive fruit flies threaten Florida crops; Orlando Sentinel (June 6, 2018): 
An invasive and destructive pest has been identified in the farmlands near  Miami , Florida.  Three male Oriental fruit flies have been found in traps in south Miami-Dade County, said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

{ Editor's note: The fruit can be irradiated to a minimum dose of 150 Gy. to prevent the spread of the Oriental Fruit Fly Oriental fruit fly}.

The state of Florida is working with the  U.S. Department of Agriculture to eradicate the flies. They are considered one of the world's most serious agricultural pests because of their potential economic harm.

The Oriental fruit fly ( Bactrocera dorsalis) lays eggs in more than 430 different fruits, vegetables and nuts. An infestation could be particularly damaging for growers of mangoes, lychees and other tropical fruit crops that were battered by Hurricane Irma in September.

"South Dade County is home to our tropical fruit industry in the state of Florida. It's a $2 billion industry just in Miami-Dade County," Putnam said after making the announcement at a USDA research station.

"The risk is, you would have a quarantine if we find a female or evidence of a breeding population. A quarantine would mean that crops currently being harvested would not be allowed to leave the area, and that would cause economic devastation to these growers who are still recovering from Irma."

To eradicate the pest, bait is being spread on utility poles, trees and other objects throughout a 1.5-square-mile area around the traps where the first flies were found. The flies die after feeding on the bait.
Nearby homeowners with fruit trees in their yards also are being asked not to take that fruit off their properties.

Investigators are trying to determine how the flies arrived in the county.
"Unfortunately, the state of Florida is a magnet for pests and disease because of our subtropical climate and the international travel that takes place in and out of our state," Putnam said.

Oriental fruit flies are native to a broad area from Pakistan and India, across southeast Asia and into Malaysia and the Philippines. They have been found in Florida several times since the 1960s. An infestation in 2015 in Miami-Dade County took six months to 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





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