Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
March  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 continues to move forward as a large number of countries and companies seek to use the technology as a phytosanitary intervention to expand market access. The volume of produce that is irradiated worldwide has increased five-fold since I began to track volumes about 2008. The oyster industry has also made huge advances in adapting irradiation as a tool to reduce deadly vibrio to non-detectable levels. Irradiation is being used to eliminate the incidence of E. coli, salmonella and other pathogens in ground beef. Omaha Steaks and Schwan's have irradiated all their fresh ground beef for 15 years. Wegman's based in Rochester, New York proudly sells irradiated ground beef throughout the northeastern US. An article in this issue mentions that vaccines are an effective tool to eliminate E. coli in cattle, but the technology is not cost effective or practical from an animal handling stand point. The beef industry should invest their resources in irradiation education rather than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars developing a technology that is effective but that any cowboy could tell you is impractical to use on a daily basis.  

Audio: Citrus industry explores alternative export treatment (ABC Rural) Each year, Australia exports $200 million worth of citrus to more than 30 countries.

Citrus Australia's citrus market access manager David Daniels said the industry needed to find ways to stay competitive, including considering alternative treatments like irradiation.

He said it could overcome major issues in the supply chain.

Mr Daniels said during the cold disinfestation period, fruit were subjected to low temperatures for about three weeks. He said the system could fail when temperatures spiked across the equator, or equipment malfunctioned.

He said these failures could be expensive, compounded by extra costs from shipping companies in applying in-transit treatments, and the certification expenses for Australian growers. "We would always welcome anything that was more cost-effective than what we're doing," he said.

Mr Daniels said many tests more needed to be done on irradiation. "We'd need to understand if it's actually damaging to the commodity, that's first and foremost." He said the next question was whether irradiation would compromise the clean image of Australian citrus.

"We always say we're sweet, safe and healthy. Sweet, safe, health and irradiated might not be received so well overseas."


Citrus farmer Michael McMahon said that switching to irradiation could be better for his fruit. "It could open up a lot more markets for his fruit. Currently, there are a lot of lemons going in the ground in Australia.

South-east Queensland citrus farmer Michael McMahon exports lemons to Indonesia, and wants to send fruit to other countries like Thailand and China. Mr McMahon said the current export treatment devalued his fruit too much. "[The current treatment is] less than two degrees and the lemons don't handle those temperatures very well at all," he said. "Really, we want to ship them at six to eight degrees, ideally, and we find they get there with no rind damage or ill effects." He said switching to irradiation could be better for his fruit, and make it more worthwhile to send to other markets. "It would open up a lot more markets for the fruit, and that will be important going forward because there are a lot more lemons going in the ground [in Australia]."

The Australian citrus already has access to three or four countries with regulatory approval for irradiation.

Link to Document...
MYTH of the MONTH: "Irradiation destroys essential vitamins and other nutrients." By Russell Stein


Irradiation destroys essential vitamins and other nutrients."


This statement is incorrect. Although irradiation can reduce some vitamins and other nutrients,

it does not destroy them nor significantly alter the amount of nutrients relative to

the total diet of the consumer.


Food treated by irradiation is generally as nutritious as, or better than, the same food treated

by the conventional familiar processes such as cooking, drying, or freezing. Numerous

studies conclude that irradiation has no significant effect on the nutritional value of the

macronutrients within foods (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates). Micronutrients, especially

certain vitamins, can be reduced by irradiation, but generally these same vitamins are similarly

reduced by the other commonly used food processing methods. Even simple storage

can lead to major loss of certain vitamins.

The significance of any loss of specific vitamins must be evaluated relative to the role of

the irradiated food as a source of that particular vitamin in the diet of the consuming public.

This consideration is heavily weighted by the regulatory agencies in their evaluation of

petitions for clearance to irradiate any food. The FDA, World Health Organization and the

American Dietetic Association have all considered the nutritional aspects of irradiated food

and endorsed the process.

An excellent argument can be made that by destroying pathogens in raw food, irradiation

will allow safer consumption of these foods and increase their overall nutritional value.

On August 22, 2008, the FDA approved the use of irradiation on fresh spinach and iceberg

lettuce. Their safety review specifically addressed the effects of irradiation on vitamins and

nutrients on products often consumed raw. On February 25, 2014 they reaffirmed their conclusion

that food irradiation is nutritionally safe:

"In summary, based on the available data and information, FDA concludes that amending

the regulations, as set forth below, to allow for the use of ionizing radiation to treat iceberg

lettuce and spinach up to a maximum dose of 4 kGs.

Link to article...

Russell N. Stein


 Opportunities in Phytosanitary Irradiation for Fresh Produce Workshop

Opportunities in Phytosanitary Irradiation for Fresh Produce Workshop

March 25-26, 2015

Offered by USDA-APHIS and Chapman University

The fifth annual "Opportunities in Phytosanitary Irradiation for Fresh Produce Workshop" will take place March 25-26, 2015 at Chapman University in Orange, CA. Over the past five years, Chapman University has partnered with U.S. produce industries and USDA-APHIS-PPQ to conduct quality studies on a variety of fresh fruit. This project is funded by a USDA-FAS-Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Grant and is designed specifically to assist in developing export markets for U.S. commodities.

The meeting will include the following:

  • Presentation of APHIS trade initiatives
  • Trade potential for irradiated produce
  • Results of research on quality of fruit and effects on invasive species
  • Grocery industry success stories

Please register for this event at

More information about the 2015 Workshop will be posted as it becomes available.

We hope to see you there!

Contacts:  Dr. Anuradha Prakash,

Margaret Smither,


Also in the News: First Australian mangoes have arrived in the US; AmericaFruit; By Gabrielle Easter (February 5, 2015):

The first shipment of irradiated Australian mangoes has been sent to the US after gaining market access in January. 

MELBOURNE: The US recently received its first shipment of Australian mangoes with the arrival of 700 trays which left Australian shores in early February.

Two growers have sent the first consignment of mangoes just as the Australian season is wrapping up, to be received by two US importers.

"We see a lost of potential in the US. It's the biggest ans one of the most affluent markets, and we'll be operating at the top end. Australia is an expensive country to produce in, and it's expensive to fly produce to the US, but we think the US will be a significant market for exports," Robert Gray, CEO of the Australian Mango Industry Association (AMIA) told Fruitnet.

Gray said that this season's shipments mark the beginning of a three-year export programme, with the small volume being used to garner market feedback and ensure the processes surrounding protocol are in line.


"Next season, we'll have a more extensive market evaluation, starting shipments with the Northern Territory mangoes in October and shipping right up until this time of the year," Gray said. "By then, we should have a better understanding of the prices and how US consumers react to Australian mangoes."

Link to Article...

E. coli vaccine effective but seldom used; By Doug Powell; BarfBlog  (March 3, 2015):

 Despite the beef industry's best efforts, E. coli and other pathogens continue to be a problem especially in ground beef. Expanded use of irradiation could nearly eliminate this lingering problem.

When it comes to foodborne illnesses, few rival E. coli for the damaging effect it can have on humans. 

Research shows that STEC-related bacteria cause more than 175,000 human illnesses per year with an annual direct economic cost ranging from $489 million to $993 million, said Kansas State University agricultural economist, Glynn Tonsor.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, often referred to as STEC O157 or simply E. coli, is naturally occurring in cattle and though it does no harm to the cattle, can make humans sick. In some cases it is lethal. To reduce the chances that beef leaving their plants is contaminated with the pathogen, beef processors have implemented hazard control steps and also test their beef products for the presence of E. coli before they leave the plant.

Another potential way to reduce prevalence of E. coli is to vaccinate cattle in feedlots long before they are shipped to processing plants.

"Immunization through vaccination has been a commercially available pre-harvest intervention to reduce E. coli shedding in cattle for about five years," said Tonsor, who is a livestock marketing specialist with K-State Research and Extension. "Despite demonstrated substantial improvement in human health the vaccine offers, it has not been widely adopted."

In a recent study he, along with K-State colleague Ted Schroeder, also an agricultural economist, took a closer look at the potential economic impacts of incorporating animal vaccination into E. coli pre-harvest control practices.

A fact sheet is available at Market Impacts of E.coli Vaccination in U.S. Feedlots. Study results have been published in the Agricultural and Food Economics Journal.

The study made clear two primary reasons most feedlot managers don't use E. coli vaccines. Because cattle themselves are not adversely affected by the pathogen, the presence of E. coli does not hinder cattle feeding efficiency so there are no production costs for feedlots directly associated with the prevalence of E. coli. In other words, it costs no more to feed cattle that have E. coli than it does to feed cattle that don't.  

Further, there is no well-established market that compensates producers for vaccinating for the pathogen. So generally, the price paid for cattle coming out of feedlots is the same whether the vaccine was used or not. Because administering the vaccine adds costs without direct economic incentives, most cattle feeders choose not to, Tonsor said.

Key findings from the K-State study include:

  • Given the current market setting, producer adoption of E. coli vaccination protocols is likely to remain limited. If such vaccinations were implemented, it would cost U.S. feedlots $1.0 billion to $1.8 billion in economic welfare loss over 10 years if demand didn't increase with premiums for vaccinated cattle.    
  • Retail or export beef demand increases could spur adoption by feedlot producers. Considering different scenarios, the study found that retail beef demand increases of 1.7 percent to 3.0 percent or export beef demand increases of 18.1 percent to 32.6 percent would be necessary to generate sufficiently higher fed cattle prices to offset the costs associated with vaccination.
  • Production cost decreases to either beef retailers or wholesalers (packers) could also provide an incentive for feedlot producers to vaccinate. The study indicated that cost declines of 2.2 percent to 3.9 percent for retailers or alternatively production cost declines of 1.2 percent to 2.2 percent for packers would be necessary to generate sufficiently higher fed cattle prices to cover feedlot adoption costs, making producers economically neutral to adoption.

"A key point of this research is that limited use of E. coli vaccinations in U.S. feedlots is consistent with the lack of current economic signals for producers to expand adoption," Schroeder said. "Unless there is a substantial change in market signals presented to feedlot operators, limited use of E. coli vaccinations can be expected in the future." 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 
Ronald F. Eustice | 13768 Trost Trail | Savage, | MN | 55378





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