Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
May 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
Food irradiation is approved in over 60 countries. The regulations that dictate how food is to be irradiated, as well as the types of food irradiated vary from country to country. In the US, the FDA approved irradiation of certain foods more than 50 years ago, but only recently has there been major growth in the commercial sale of irradiated foods for human consumption.  While, the irradiation of ground beef to eliminate harmful  bacteria in 2000 generated considerable publicity, t he increased availability of irradiated produce in the US marketplace has created far greater awareness, understanding and interest in irradiation. This interest is largely the result of requirements that imported fruits and vegetables are free of harmful insect pests that threaten domestic crop production. Support from agencies such as the USDA has helped make irradiation the preferred method of pest mitigation. As the list of countries seeking market access and the availability of irradiation facilities grows, we'll see much more irradiated foods on supermarket shelves.
Featured Article: Global Status and Worldwide Commercial Applications of Food Irradiation;   By Ronald F. Eustice
T he successful experience of commercialization of irradiated foods in many parts of the world calls for a revision of the view that consumers are reluctant or unwilling to purchase irradiated foods.  There is a growing need to adapt new strategies based an actual market experience to encourage further commercialization.

A significant number of consumers around the world have now purchased and continue to purchase irradiated fresh produce, meat, seafood and other foods. The evidence is substantial that while a small fraction of the public will not buy irradiated food, a much larger percentage will. In some cases consumers are willing to pay a higher price for irradiated food once they understand the benefits. Retailers have the key role since they decide whether or not they will offer irradiated food on their shelves. However, some retailers still believe consumers will not purchase irradiated food, even though irradiated foods especially fruits imported from Asia and South Africa have been on their store shelves and successfully sold for several years. Seldom is there a complaint. T hough vocal at times, opposition seems to have little impact on most consumers who at the moment of purchase make decisions on the basis of what they see in front of them and price. This does not imply unanimous acceptance of irradiated food. 
No food is purchased or wanted by all consumers. Also, consumers do not decide the new products that are offered to them. The retailers who assess afterwards if the sales are acceptable decide which products to offer. The vast majority of consumers simply want to buy the product and the fact that it has been irradiated has little if any relevance. Communication on the products and on the benefits to retailers and consumers is more effective than providing technical details of the technology.

Proponents of food irradiation should channel their efforts and resources towards convincing retailers and foodservice representatives that they can offer irradiated foods without risking consumer backlash. The opinion that consumers will not buy irradiated foods is a myth mostly perpetuated by anti-technology activists who oppose most other technologies.

Phytosanitary irradiation is rapidly growing worldwide. Market access is the primary reason for the growth. Many countries want to import produce but they do want to import insect pests along with the produce. As the list of countries seeking market access and the availability of irradiation facilities grows, we'll see much more irradiated foods on supermarket shelves. 

Some Examples:
Australia has a highly successful phytosanitary irradiation program and is exporting to New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the United States. Some irradiated produce has also been transported between Australian states to meet intra-state phytosanitary protocols. Over 2000 metric tonnes of irradiated Australian produce were marketed in 2014/15. Mangoes, tomatoes, capsicum, plums, lychees, and table grapes are being irradiated. The volume has increased steadily and is double what is was in 2011/12. Three fourths of irradiated produce is mango (1480 tonnes) with tomatoes in second place at 430 tonnes.

Irradiation in Mexico is moving at a steady pace with a 12 percent annual growth rate. Most exports go to the United States. A total of over 11,700 tonnes of irradiated produce were exported in 2015. Ninety percent of exports are guavas with manzano peppers, sweet limes and pomegranate also included on the list. Several of the largest grocery chains in the US carry irradiated Mexican produce. Consumer acceptance is excellent.

China is the world leader in food irradiation with 765,000 tonnes of food irradiated in 2012 (the most recent year with figures). The volume a year earlier was 540,000 tonnes. Estimates are that about 1,000,000 tonnes of food is irradiated in China. About half (400,000 MT) of the irradiated food are chicken feet followed by pet food, dehydrated vegetables, spice & seasoning, Chinese herbs, seafood (frozen and dry). There are about 140 Gamma irradiators in China with 60 to 70 percent of these used for food.

The USA has one of the most active markets for irradiated food with an estimated 50 million pounds of irradiated produce consumed annually. Hawaii irradiated 6500 tonnes (14.3 million pounds) in 2014. The US also irradiates about 15 million pounds of irradiated meat and seafood and 175,000 pounds of irradiated spices annually. Major retailers including Omaha Steaks, Wegmans and Schwans carry irradiated ground beef.  Wegmans has opened a chain of restaurants featuring irradiated ground beef as a menu item.

California-based Melissa's has a very active import program of irradiated produce. Imported irradiated products include Mexican and Australian mangoes, Vietnamese dragon fruit, starfruit, rambutan and mangosteen. Volumes are significant and growing rapidly.

Trust in the systems that will deliver and regulate food irradiation is essential. The support of agencies such as World Health Organization, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization; the European Community Scientific Committee for Food; the United States Food and Drug Administration, a United Kingdom House of Lords committee and by scientists at Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has been crucial. Governments worldwide must take a science-based stand and create the conditions whereby consumers can exercise their free choice of buying or not buying irradiated food. More effort should be put into addressing issues such as lack of irradiation capacity, optimizing supply chain reliability, developing facilities to treat food where food is finally packaged and expand the list of approved packaging materials.
Ronald F. Eustice, the author of this article has been involved in the commercial introduction of irradiated foods since 1997 while he was serving as executive director, Minnesota Beef Council. During the past 18 years Eustice has gathered statistics showing the worldwide growth and consumer acceptance of irradiated food in the marketplace. 
MYTH of the MONTH: "All foods should be irradiated." By Russell Stein
"All foods should be irradiated." 

This notion is ill-conceived. Irradiation is a useful tool that can be used to improve the safety, quality and/or distribution of many foods.  Irradiation should be used by food companies when the benefits of its use are greater than the associated costs.
Both heating and irradiation have chemical, physical and/or biological effects on different materials.   We can, and do, employ both of these forms of energy to provide specific improvements to various food products.
Heat can be used to pasteurize certain foods. But all foods do not need pasteurization to be safe to eat. It can be used to cook food, but many of our foods are preferred uncooked. It can be used to bake bread, but we do not survive on bread alone. There is no reason to use heat processing on all food.

The irradiation process can be used to pasteurize certain foods. It can be used to delay ripening in certain foods. It can be used to kill insect pests in certain foods. For some foods it can be used to decrease flatulence. However, the specific effects are for certain foods and not common to all food. Similar to heat, there is no reason to irradiate all food.
Irradiation is a tool that can be employed on certain foods for certain advantages. Often there are competitive techniques that may be employed. For example, both heat and radiation can be used to kill microorganisms in food. However there are technical differences between the two processes. Irradiation is a cold process allowing product to be disinfected without cooking. The heat process also cooks the product.
Often this cooking is viewed as a benefit such as with canned peaches. For some foods the side effect of cooking might be viewed as a negative. Spinach salad uses raw spinach. Personally, it makes me a bit queasy imagining a spinach salad made from canned spinach. And yet, there is a separate market for canned spinach. By using a different process, the same vegetable is made into two different products. To reduce the threat of pathogens in spinach, we think of heat for canned...irradiation for fresh. For the record, I like fresh spinach and canned spinach, fresh peaches and canned peaches. Heck, I even like fresh, cooked succotash, but I love eating succotash right out of the can...cold!
The individual companies of the food industry determine if there is an advantage for each of their products to be heated, or irradiated, or processed in any other way. They weigh the advantages of each process against the costs of using that process. And the market determines if there is a willingness to accept, and pay for, these advantages.
The only process common to all food is that of digestion.
First Indian pomegranates arrive in US; Asia Fruit; (May 6, 2016): 
Kay Bee Exports lands fresh pomegranate shipment in North America after USDA approves irradiation programme.
USDA approves import of Indian pomegranates to USA; Irradiation Required.
A year-round supply programme for fresh Indian pomegranates looks set to provide Kay Bee Exports with a new window of opportunity in the US, after the Maharastra-based company became the first to export the fruit to the North American market.  Kay Bee Exports chief executive Kaushal Khakhar said the offering would complement domestic production of the fruit in the US.

"India is the only country in the world with 365 day availability and fresh harvest," Khakhar said. "This allows us to ship pomegranates to all parts of the world during the receiving country's off-season. We are excited at being able to ship the first fruit to the US and we look forward to working with new customers and promote this excellent fruit from India."

The landmark first consignment was made up of the Bhagwa pomegranate variety, renowned for its soft seeds and sweet taste. Prior to being airfreighted to the US, the shipment underwent irradiation treatment at 400Gy.

Kay Bee Exports has been shipping Indian mangoes to US for the past ten years by using irradiation. Khakhar was pleased the same treatment has now been approved by the USDA for pomegranates.

"The irradiation process eliminates quarantine pests and at the same time extends shelf-life and improves flavor," he explained.  Khakhar said securing market access was the result of sustained efforts by the Indian National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO), Apeda and Maharashtra state government authorities. "It is the untiring efforts of these various government agencies which has culminated into the first shipment," he added. 

Kay Bee Exports also operates a high-care, hand-extracted pomegranate arils facility. As cut fruits, the arils have been allowed to be shipped the US for several years.

First ever pomegranates from India to USA; Fresh Plaza (May 9, 2016): 
First pomegranate shipment in North America after USDA approves irradiation programme.
Kaushal Khakhar, CEO, Kay Bee Exports
The Bhagwa pomegranate variety, renowned for its soft seeds and sweet taste, has finally managed to reach the USA after sustained efforts by the Indian NPPO (National Plant Protection Organisation), APEDA (export promotion council for fresh produce) and Maharashtra state government authorities. The pomegranates had to undergo an irradiation treatment of 400 Gy. A trial air shipment of 324 boxes was sent through a pre-clearance irradiation program operated by the USDA in Mumbai. Dr. Vedpal Malik from USDA signed the first documents to enable exports.
Kay Bee Exports has been shipping Indian mangoes to USA for the last ten years by using an irradiation treatment. The irradiation process eliminates quarantine pests and at the same extends shelf life and improves flavor. This same treatment has now been approved by the USDA for pomegranates.

The irradiation treatment mitigates several pests that are of concern to the USDA. Along with it, exporters are required to also ensure absence of other pests that cannot be mitigated by irradiation viz. Tenuipalpus granati, Tenuipalpus punicae and Xanthomonas axonopodis.

Kay Bee Exports has its own Global GAP certified farming operations for pomegranates and handles one of the largest volumes for exports to Europe, Middle East and Asia. A lot of care is taken in growing the Pomegranates in a safe and environmentally-friendly way. Numerous IPM (Integrated Pest Management) systems are used to ensure minimum usage of chemicals. Both traditional practices and modern know-how are synchronized on the farms.
Kaushal Khakhar, CEO of Kay Bee Exports has expressed a lot of optimism regarding this new market access. Commenting on the first shipment, "India is the only country in the world with 365 day availability and fresh harvest. This allows us to ship pomegranates to all parts of the world during the receiving country's off-season. We are excited at being able to ship the first fruit to the USA and we look forward to working with new customers and promote this excellent fruit from India. It is the untiring efforts of various government agencies which has culminated into the first shipment."
They also operate a high-care hand-extracted pomegranate arils facility. Being cut-fruits, these have been allowed access to USA for several years. The company ships about 200 tonnes of fresh mangoes to the USA. It has won five consecutive government export awards with annual revenues of US$20 million  

Vietnam to export dragon fruit to Australia; Thanh Nien News; (April 28, 2016): 
Irradiated Vietnam Dragon fruit will soon be on Australian supermarket shelves.
Australia has commenced work on market access for fresh dragon fruit from Vietnam, according to a report from the Australian Embassy. 
Australia has already undertaken preliminary work on the assessment, including reviewing pests and diseases.

Further work on risk assessment will be carried out over the next few months, including a field visit to production areas and an evaluation of production and export practices.
A draft report is expected to be released for public feedback later this year.  Australia is also considering other Vietnamese fruits.

Lychee was the first Vietnamese fruit shipped to Australia, starting May last year. Lychee exports reached 28 tons at the end of 2015.   Mango has been accessed since November and the first shipment is expected soon. 

In 2014, Vietnam became the first country to export dragon fruit to New Zealand, after the two countries agreed on procedures to ensure safety requirements. {Note: The procedures include irradiation}.

Vietnam lychees in Melbourne supermarket.
Vietnam has more than 36,000 hectares of dragon fruit, mostly in the central province of Binh Thuan and the southern provinces of Long An and Tien Giang with a total annual productivity of more than 615,000 tons, according to the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetables Association.  The bright pink fruit is believed to be very nutritious, low in calories and high in fiber.

Sixty Tonnes of Mangoes Irradiated; Record Exports Expected; India Times (May 6, 2016 ):

India's mango exports predicted to reach new levels thanks to irradiation. 
Nashik: Around 60 metric tonnes of mangoes have been irradiated so far this season at the irradiation centre of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) at Lasalgaon, India.

The centre, which had irradiated 328 metric mangoes for export to USA in 2015, is hoping to process around 400 metric tonnes this season. In 2014 season, 295 metric tonnes of mangoes were process.

As per the norms, it is mandatory to irradiate mangoes before exporting the fruit to USA. The Lasalgaon centre processes seven metric tonnes of mangoes in one shift of eight hours. The Vashi-based Agrosurg Irradiators India is commercially operating the Lasalgaon centre of BARC. 
Link to article ...
Russia and Algeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the cooperation on peaceful use of nuclear energy; Published on Al Bawaba ( (April 28, 2016):
Rosatom and The Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful uses.
Algeria has become latest country to expand use of food irradiation.
The State Atomic Energy Corporation "Rosatom" and The Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful uses. The document was signed by Director General of ROSATOM and the Chairman of COMENA, Mohamed Derdour.

The memorandum is aimed at working out concrete forms of business cooperation between Russia and Algeria both in energy and non-energy application of peaceful atom. Among energy projects, Memorandum provides opportunity of joint implementation of NPP project in Algeria based on Russian technology, as well as cooperation in the field of nuclear fuel cycle; possible involvement of the Algerian side in the project of Multi-purpose Fast Reactor; cooperation in the field of nuclear safety and nuclear security; nuclear education and nuclear training of personnel, including training of Algerian students and specialists at Russian universities.
Among non-energy areas, the parties agreed to continue discussion and assessment of such projects as building Nuclear Science and Technology Center based on Russian-design research reactor, construction of facility for the production of isotope products and application of radioisotopes in the Algerian industry, construction of nuclear medicine centers and irradiation centers for improving the efficiency of agriculture etc. The Memorandum envisages the joint roadmap development aimed at implementation of Algerian peaceful nuclear program. The roadmap is to specify mutually-beneficial projects and to be implemented by joint workgroups.
 Vietnam's green produce has real chance in US: agriculture secretary (April 5, 2016):
US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack in Vietnam which has become one of the larger trading partners for agricultural produce. So far, rambutan, longan, lychee and dragon fruit have been exported to the USA. All must be irradiated.
Vietnam has increasingly seen U.S. demand for its agricultural products rise, and has the chance to penetrate this market thanks to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

Among the Vietnamese green produce, mangoes have emerges as the fruit to win over American consumers, Vilsack told reporters in Ho Chi Minh City, after touring an outlet of Vietnam's leading supermarket chain Co.op Mart.
Mango is not grown in the U.S. so Vietnamese businesses have an opportunity to sell this fruit to America, he explained.

The agriculture secretary was on a Monday - Thursday visit to Vietnam to discuss the details of the U.S.-led TPP agreement with his Vietnamese counterparts from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Vietnam, the U.S. and ten other Pacific Rim countries signed the TPP on February 4 in Auckland, New Zealand, after seven years of negotiations that ended in October 2015.

The accord, which would liberalize trade in 40 percent of the world's economy, has not yet come into force, pending ratification in each member country.  Once the TPP takes effect, the U.S. is expected to drop up to 90 percent of the tax lines for Vietnamese goods, which Vilsack said will make Vietnam's produce more competitive in the U.S. market.

On the other hand, Vietnam will also reduce and eventually eliminate tariffs across a broad range of food and agricultural products, which will help put U.S. exports on a level playing field and give the United States a leg-up on non-TPP competitors.
Vietnam's average tariff on U.S. agricultural products is 16 percent, while the average U.S. tariff is five percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Southeast Asian country remains one of the fastest-growing markets for U.S. food and agricultural products, with U.S. exports totaling US$2.3 billion in 2015, a massive 357 percent increase from 2007, when Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), the department said in a press release.  It now ranks as the United States' 11th-largest agricultural export market, with top products including cotton, tree nuts, soybeans, and dairy.

Vietnam has so far managed to sell rambutan, longan, litchi and dragon fruits to the U.S., with local exporters lamenting the fact that the licensing process remains lengthy, complicated and costly.
  Link to article ...
Retail mango outlets to come up at Bengaluru's tech parks this season; Deccan Herald  (May 10, 2016):
Mango exports from India are on the rise
 For the first time, the Karnataka State Mango Development and Marketing Corporation Limited (KSMDMCL) will set up mango retail outlets in tech parks in the city during the Bengaluru mango mela to be held in third and fourth week of May.

The aim is to help those working in tech parks to purchase mangoes directly from farmers, said KSMDMCL Chairperson  Kamalakshi Rajanna. Talks are on with companies to finalise the venue and timings for setting up the retail outlets.

Details of farmers selling mangoes are being posted on the corporation's website so that techies and other Bengalureans can contact the growers directly and place their orders. The prices of mangoes at the retail outlets will be same as that at the mela.

Techies will have an opportunity to interact with farmers and understand their experiences, she added.

Mangoes from various parts of Karnataka are in high demand across the globe. To increase exports, KSMDMCL had written to the Malaysian government. The Malaysian embassy had shown interest to purchase mangoes.

Following this, KSMDMCL requested the Australian government last week and got a positive response.

On Thursday, an Australian delegation visited  Innova Agri Bio Park Limited at Malur in Kolar district to get a first hand information on mango processing.

Rajanna said that the team comprising Bohuelava Zeman, Counselor Agriculture, Australia High Commission, Dr Aishwarya Radhakrishnan, senior research officer, Australian High Commission, Dr D K Ravindra, DGM of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) inspected the hot water treatment plant, Gamma Irradiation and packaging unit.

They conducted Gamma Irradiation on mangoes and took along with them three cartons, each containing three kgs of Alphanso mangoes. They are likely to place their order in the coming week.

Next in line to visit the Malur plant is a team from the USA. The team will be touring with us from May 9 to 13.

They have shown interest to visit the bio- park, inspect the treatment units, processing and packaging units. They have also shown interest to visit mango orchards before placing their orders," she added. 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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