Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
March 2016
Food Irradiation Update is published monthly by Ronald F. Eustice, a food quality & safety assurance consultant based in Tucson, Arizona. He can be reached at:
and at 612.202.1016
On March 23-24th, I will be participating in the Sixth Annual Phytosanitary Conference at Chapman University. I have attended three of the six conferences and have watched the list of attendees and the excitement level expand rapidly. I have been involved with dozens of irradiation conferences worldwide. Without a doubt, this conference is the most informative irradiation forum that I have attended or been a participant in. There is still space available and time to register. The good news is that thanks to generous funding from several sponsors, there is no registration fee. Read below to learn more about the agenda and how you can register. I look forward to seeing you there.  
Featured Article: Chapman University Phytosanitary Irradiation Conference, March 23-24, 2016 at Orange, California.  
The Sixth Annual Phytosanitary Irradiation Conference will be held March 23-24 at Chapman University, Orange, California.   The event is a "must attend" activity for anyone interested in phytosanitary irradiation. As of March 3rd, more than 100 attendees are registered.  The agenda shows an impressive list of speakers that are experts in various aspects of irradiation. If you have not done so already, please register for the forum by going to The conference is sponsored by Chapman University, USDA, and FAO/IAEA with financial support from MEVEX (gold), Nordion (silver) and Dasheng Electron Accelerator Technology (silver) and Steritech (bronze). There is no charge for the conference.
MYTH of the MONTH: "Irradiation is too effective and irradiation is not effective enough." By Russell Stein
"Irradiation is too effective and irradiation is not effective enough."

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 Stein 
California drought presents challenges for pomegranate growers.  ; Fresh Plaza; (March 2, 2016): 
{Editor's Note} USDA is expected to officially announce on the 1st of April that the US market will be open for Peruvian pomegranates treated by irradiation. This is in continuation with the move to switch from methyl bromide to safer forms of pest control.

Irradiated pomegranate from Peru will soon be available in the United States.

Despite some challenges at the beginning of this year's pomegranate season in California, David Anthony from Ruby fresh said that, overall, the crop was pretty much the same size as the season before. This doesn't mean that the season was without challenges, the major drought did stress the fruit which caused some reduction in graded fruit for retail due to external issues, but the drought resistant nature of the shrub meant that the situation wasn't catastrophic. 

"We are optimistic with the rains that we have had over the last few months and have already been advised some of our water providers that we will have water, whereas last season had been told that there would be not allotments, so that is a positive situation for California pomegranates for the next season." shares Anthony.

The California pomegranate season generally starts at the end of Sept. for early varieties and then rolls into the most popular Wonderful variety that starts in October and runs through March. 

The company switches over to the South American varieties at the beginning of April.  Ruby Fresh has been sourcing pomegranates from Ica, Peru for the last 3 seasons and are about to start a program for the first time this season with Argentina, with orchards located 3 hours south of Buenas Aires in the San Juan region. A new USDA protocol for cold treatment in transit was introduced last season for pomegranates from Argentina, and Anthony said the company expects to source more from the South American country this season, on the back of the success of the preliminary trials.

There have also been recent developments in Peru, where the USDA is expected to officially announce on the 1st of April that the US market will be open for Peruvian pomegranates treated by irradiation. This is in continuation with the move to switch from methyl bromide to safer forms of pest control.

The Ruby Fresh season in Peru is expected to start between 1-3 March with loading of the first containers to happen the week starting 7 March, building up to full volume by the following week. 

Anthony reported that the arils from the Peruvian orchards are sweet and healthy. To ensure continued quality for customers, the orchards in Peru are from direct cuttings from the Ruby Fresh trees in California. 

"Five seasons ago we sent transplants to Peru of our Wonderful variety. They planted them and it turned into a really nice variety of plants down there as well. For us it is neat because the fruit is familiar, has the same external color, the arils look the same on the inside and they taste very good." said Anthony.

Ruby Fresh will market the Peruvian pomegranates both on the International scale to Europe, Canada and Asia and will also do some trials into the US market so they can continue with the domestic program to grocery stores and wholesalers throughout the year.
Link to article ... 

Queensland-grown Honey Gold mangoes have left a sweet taste in the mouths of US consumers; Asia Fruit (March 2, 2016):
Queensland-grown Honey Gold mangoes have left a sweet taste in the mouths of 
US consumers, having entered the North American market for the first time this season. {Editor's Note: The mangoes are treated by irradiation to eliminate harmful insect pests}.

Three shipments of the variety were included in an Australian industry export programme, which saw the fruit distributed across the US.

"Our Queensland-grown Honey Gold mangoes were shipped to Los Angeles and distributed as far afield as New York," said Gavin Scurr, managing director of grower-packer-exporter Piñata Farms, who hold the breeding rights Honey Gold. "Most were sold in Texas and the rest in California where they received an excellent reception from retailers and consumers."

The Honey Gold mangoes, produced by Piñata Farms and some 40 third-party growers, were sold in supermarkets alongside other Australian mangoes and independently. The export programme was supported by a range of promotional activities, including tastings, demonstrations and in-store displays.

Scurr said Australian mangoes provide a superior eating experience when compared to other imports sold in the US market.

"Piñata Farms has an exclusive arrangement with importer, Melissa's, which distributes and markets premium and unique fruit lines across the US," Scurr said. "We've had enquiries from many other importers because of the Honey Gold's flavour profile and reputation but we're committed to Melissa's because of the marketing opportunities provided."

The industry-wide export programme came after the establishment of a protocol allowing Australian mangoes into the US. The agreement followed more than seven years of bilateral negotiations between the US and Australian governments.
"The trade arrangement came into effect late in the 2014-2015 season - too late for Honey Gold mangoes - so this was the first full season Australian mango producers had access to the US market," Scurr said.
Link to article ...
Use of irradiation in India's food processing industry; Business Standard (March 1, 2016):
The Government of India is expanding efforts to arrest post-harvest losses of produce by using irradiation technology.
DELHI: Government of India has cleared several commodities under new Atomic Energy (Radiation Processing of Food & Allied Products) Rules 2012 in Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 for preservation through irradiation. 
A major facility in the Government sector catering to irradiation of fresh horticultural produce is the KRUSHAK facility at Lasalgaon, Nashik District, Maharashtra State, India. The facility has been used for irradiating mangoes for export to USA since 2007. Radiation processing plant at Vashi, Navi Mumbai, under the Department of Atomic Energy, has been processing spices and dry ingredients for microbial decontamination since the year 2000.

With the objective of arresting post-harvest losses of horticulture & non-horticulture produce, Ministry of Food Processing Industries is operating a scheme for Cold Chain, Value Addition and Preservation Infrastructure for grant of financial assistance for setting up inter alia, irradiation facilities by individuals or group of entrepreneurs, cooperative societies, Self Help Group etc.

The energy involved in irradiation is not strong enough to cause changes at the atomic level, and since the food is never in contact with a radioactive source, the food cannot become radioactive. Several extensive reviews of toxicological data by regulatory and health organizations, have determined that food irradiated at doses below 10 kGy is safe. In fact, food is safer after being irradiated because the process destroys harmful bacteria that may be present. Numerous published research studies have tried to identify problems resulting from eating irradiated foods but failed to disclose any health risks. Several of these studies were long term, multi-generation feeding studies, involving several species of test animals. A joint study group of FAO/IAEA/WHO in 1997 evaluated data on wholesomeness of food irradiated with doses above 10 kGy and recommended that food irradiated with any dose to achieve technical objectives is safe and nutritionally adequate. No upper limit, therefore, needs to be imposed as long as food is irradiated based on prevailing good manufacturing practices.

Among the legislations that govern food irradiation in the country, The Atomic Energy (Control of Irradiation of Food) Rules 1991, the primary legislation that regulates food irradiation was amended and the notification issued recently in June 2012. A generic class-based approval has been approved for increasing the product range for radiation processing. It will provide year long availability of feedstock for irradiation plants and improve their economic viability. Irradiation of food is also governed under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and the Regulations issued thereunder.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti in a written reply in Lok Sabha. 

Link to article ... 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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