Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
October 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. 
The year 2016 will go down in history as a period of rapid expansion of food irradiation for phytosanitary purposes. Irradiated produce from overseas is now routinely found on major US supermarket shelves. Increasingly, US consumers are purchasing "exotic" produce items because they are tired of the "same old" bananas. Guavas and mangoes are no longer only for "ethnic" markets but traditional consumers that previously could differentiate a rambutan from a persimmon are relishing the new-found taste. Much of the produce is available only because it is treated by irradiation which is a mandatory requirement for import into the continental US.
IN THIS ISSUE
Featured Article: Gateway America in Gulfport, Mississippi expands the US market for irradiated foods; By Ronald F. Eustice
South Africa persimmons are irradiated at Gateway America
GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI: Food irradiation is gaining momentum by the hour and one major center of activity is in Gulfport, Mississippi. USDA and FDA approvals, continuing outbreaks of foodborne illness and growing awareness of food irradiation as an effective phytosanitary treatment for imported fruit have generated rapidly growing interest in the irradiation of food.

Gateway America has cleared the path for overseas companies to export fresh produce to the US by using their facility as the headquarters for phytosanitary treatment to eliminate unwanted pests. Many countries, especially in Asia, already have irradiation facilities, however the USDA requirement that US inspectors be present in the country of origin when the produce is irradiated is a stumbling block. By having an irradiation facility at a US port of entry, foreign exporters can reduce expenses by eliminating the need for costly on-site inspection, a USDA/APHIS requirement. 

Gateway's ability to be a US country of origin treatment center to allow American farmers to export to other countries is another distinct advantage.The first commercial consignment of US produce irradiated as a phytosanitary treatment at Gateway America, Gulfport, Mississippi was exported to Mexico in 2015. 

Three and one-half years ago, the USDA/APHIS certified Gateway America as a food irradiation treatment facility to eliminate unwanted pests in imported and exported fruits and vegetables. "Since then, the growth has been dramatic," says Frank Benso, President of Gateway America. Gateway is also approved to irradiate meat, poultry, oysters, crustaceans and certain other types of seafood to reduce harmful bacteria to non-detectable levels.

International interest in food irradiation is huge and growing. Twelve countries have signed reciprocal trade agreements with the US for produce treated by irradiation for phytosanitary purposes, both import and export.  More are pending with several Central and South American countries on the rapidly expanding list.
 
Reciprocal trade agreements are signed with the understanding that both signatory countries  are willing to receive products from each others countries. Recently Gateway has irradiated blueberries destined for India and the United Arab Emirates. Currently there great interest in the export of US produce to Mexico. 
 
Consumers want imported fruit, but local farmers and government agencies don't want foreign pests that hitch-hike on the fruit and threaten our agriculture. At stake is the multi-billion dollar US produce industry. "Disaster is only one cargo container away," says Benso. Harmful pests such as weevils and borers hitch-hiking on imported fruit and vegetables could cost the produce industry billions. 

Gray*Star's Genesis irradiation system and technology are key components of Gateway's success.
 
Food irradiation is a required phytosanitary treatment for many commodities such as guavas from Mexico, dragon fruit from Vietnam, mangoes from India and Pakistan and dozens of others. 

As more irradiated meat and produce becomes available at retail and food service, Benso believes consumers will be increasingly accepting of the process. Omaha Steaks, Schwans and Wegmans have marketed irradiated ground beef since 2000. For these highly respected companies, the use of irradiation to make ground beef safer has been a positive attribute. Their ground beef proudly displays the radura symbol.
 
The future is extremely bright for irradiation of meat and poultry. Benso says, "Irradiation will eventually become the preferred technology to enhance current Best Manufacturing Practices to make our food safer.
 
Recalls are the wake up calls to the industry and Benso believes that retail chains will eventually require processors to use irradiation on certain foods as the ultimate assurance of food safety.

Irradiation is helping to make live oysters safer by reducing the dangerous vibrio bacteria to non-detectable levels.
Benso says, "The benefits of irradiation for the elimination of "pests of concern" along with the elimination of harmful bacteria to "non-detectable" levels without altering the taste, nutritional values or appearance of the commodities we have irradiated are providing positive results and that word is spreading.... the future is here!"


MYTH of the MONTH: "Any commercial irradiator can be used for any food irradiation." By Russell Stein
Myth:
"Any commercial irradiator can be used for any food irradiation process."

Reality:
Technically true. Economically uncomfortable.

Goldilocks was presented with various choices of meals and lodging. Most of these choices provided nourishment and rest. However, only one of each of the options was "just right".

Many food and non-food products are irradiated. The properties of these products vary greatly as does the purpose of irradiating these products. Further, the logistics for handling different products vary from one industry to another and even from one company to another. It is important that the design, location and operation of the irradiator is "just right" to minimize costs, or at least right enough to make the use of a facility economically feasible.

The following are some of the key product and process variables that factor into the type of irradiator that would minimize costs:

Dose: There are many different reasons for irradiating different products. To achieve the desired effect, different doses are required. For example, to stop potatoes from sprouting, a minimum dose of as little as 30 Gray is required. However, NASA requires a minimum dose of 44,000 Gray to irradiate meat for astronauts. Imagine an irradiator with a continuous conveyor system optimized to irradiate the astronaut's meals. To process potatoes in that same irradiator would require the conveyor to travel roughly 1,500 times faster. There might be ways of running the potatoes, but they would not be optimal. Similarly, irradiating the astronaut's turkey would take 1,500 times longer when processed in an irradiator designed for potatoes.

Density: The density of different products varies greatly. Generally speaking, as the density of the product increases, the penetration of the radiation through the product becomes more difficult. In essence, the inside of the product is shielded by the outside of the product. The effect of this shielding is a function of density. This property ultimately affects the dose uniformity throughout the product. It can be compensated for by configuring the thickness of the product being irradiated, but that might affect how 
the product is normally handled and thus not optimal. For many products, dose uniformity is not an issue. However, for some products, such as food, dose uniformity is a major factor. The design of the irradiator is dependent on the dose uniformity requirements of the products serviced. Another role that density plays in the design of an irradiator is related to how the product is conveyed through the irradiator. Higher density products are, by definition, heavier for the same volume of material. A conveyor system designed for high density (heavy) products could be used for both high and low density products. However, the construction of physically stronger conveyor systems requires more and heavier structural components. These conveyor components will absorb a portion of the radiation intended for the product. For this, and similar reasons, a unit designed for heavy products will not treat low density products as efficiently as an irradiator designed specifically for low density products. On the up side, to run the same volume containers of high density products in a low density irradiator would overload the conveyor system's weight limits. Smaller volumes of the high density product could be run, but this would not be optimal.

Flexibility: Dose and density are key factors in the design of an irradiator. There are many more. Ideally an irradiator would be solely designed and optimized for one product at one dose, one density, one package size/configuration, and the specific production volume of that product to run the irradiator 24/7/365. [An irradiator designer's dream!] Unfortunately, for the irradiator designer, the current food products being irradiated do not have the production volumes for a dedicated unit. So, some  exibility needs to be incorporated into the design of irradiators to accommodate similar products and similar processes. The irradiation of perishable foods presents new issues that require greater design flexibility. The current logistics of perishable foods dictate that irradiators need to be able to run both very small and very large lots of products and to be able to efficiently change from one product to another. For some perishable foods such as fruits and vegetables, seasonality becomes a major factor. Generally speaking, the more flexible the design and operation of an irradiator, the higher the costs.

A commercial irradiator that can be used for any process will not be as viable as an irradiator dedicated to one specific product. But an irradiator designed for one specific food product would not currently be commercially viable.

When Goldilocks looks for an irradiator to process her porridge, she needs to factor in the specific processing and logistics of her porridge and determine what is "just right".
Link to article ...

Russell Stein 
GRAY*STAR, Inc.
First trays of Northern Territory mangoes set to fly to United States; ABC Rural (September 30, 2016): 
Northern Territory Primary Industries Manager Ken Vowles
with Scott Ledger of Manbulloo Mangoes

BRISBANE: The first shipment of Northern Territory mangoes to the United States is due to leave Brisbane this week.

The fruit will be flown over the Pacific Ocean and trucked to supermarkets throughout the US. About 100 tonnes of Queensland mangoes were sent last year, but now with three Top End farmers on board, the trade could double.

Manbulloo will initially send 240 cartons of the Kensington Pride variety to the Produce Marketing Association's conference being held in Florida in October.

Quality manager Scott Ledger said the mangoes would be irradiated in Brisbane before being flown to Los Angeles for distribution. "As part of the export protocol, the mangoes need to be irradiated for control of fruit fly," he said. "So this was a protocol that was developed by the Australian Government, working together with the Australian Mango Industry Association. "This will be the third year of exports to the US. The first year was just two shipments out of Queensland, the second year was about 10 shipments."

Quality Manager Scott Ledger of Manbulloo Mangoes
with the first Northern Territory
Mango shipment to the USA
The Katherine mango season officially got underway this week, with Manbulloo the first farm to begin picking. From when the fruit is harvested, it will take about 21 days for it to eventually arrive in the supermarkets in the US.

Speaking to ABC Rural at the Berrimah Research Farm, the NT Minister for Primary Industry Ken Vowles said he was committed to ensuring research by the department would continue to support the local industry. "[The department] is continuously looking and researching to protect the Territory and also grow the market," he said.

"Governments change and political parties change, but the work continues and I'll keep encouraging that."

Earlier this year, Department of Primary Industry market development officer Michael Daysh flew to the US to inspect the Australian mangoes in the supermarkets.

The NT already exports mangoes to Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Japan and Europe.
Vietnam edges closer to Australian dragon fruit market access; Fresh Fruit Portal (September 14, 2016): 
MELBOURNE: The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has
Vietnam will soon export irradiated dragon fruit to Australia.
published a draft report proposing Vietnamese dragon fruit imports be allowed into the country. 

Following a visit to Vietnam's dragon fruit production areas in June this year, Australian authorities believe the product would be safe in pest risk terms from all commercial growing areas provided certain measures are in place.

The draft report includes a range of biosecurity conditions including area freedom, irradiation or vapor heat treatment for fruit flies, as well as visual inspection for mealybugs and remedial action if the pest is detected.

The department will be accepting comments on the matter until Nov. 14, 2016.
In a release, the Australian Embassy in Vietnam said it expected the risk analysis would be completed by the end of this year. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc emphasised the high priority of this market access request during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Vientiane last week.
If access is granted, it is expected that exports to Australia would take place during the peak harvest period between May and September.

The report said production of dragon fruit in Vietnam was mainly in the southern provinces of Binh Thuan, Long An, Tien Giang, Kien Giang, Binh Phuoc, and Tay Ninh, but production had expanded to the northern provinces as well.

A letter from Vietnam's Plant Protection Department (PPD) advised Australian authorities the area under cultivation has expanded to almost 40,000 hectares, up from 25,000 hectares in 2013. This growing area can yield around 1.1 million metric tons (MT) of fruit per year.
Link to article ...
India/Russia trade pact to establish 25 irradiation food irradiation facilities in India; NPR News (October 13, 2016): 
Indian Prime Minister Nahendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin sign agreement to establish 25 Russian-built food irradiators in India.
NEW DELHI: India and Russia Thursday signed a pact to set up 25 integrated infrastructure centers for irradiation treatment of perishable food items to improve shelf life and cut post-harvest losses. At least 7 centers will be set up in Maharashtra, with the first centre near Shirdi to be ready next year. Perishable items ranging from flowers to fish will be treated there on a commercial scale.

The agreement was signed between Russia's United Innovation Corporation (UIC) - a subsidiary of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation - and Hindustan Agro Co-op Ltd on the sidelines of the BRICS Business Forum here.

"As part of the agreement, a JV will be formed for this purpose. About 25 integrated centers will be developed across the country, of which seven of them in Maharashtra in the first phase," Hindustan Agro Co-op Ltd Chairman Bharat Dhokani Patil told reporters.

UIC will be a technology partner and will help set up the irradiation centers in India. The mode of investment and economic feasibility of the project is still being worked out, he said. The 7 centers are likely to be established in Sindhurg, Satara, Solapur, JNPT, Jalana, Napur and Pune in the first phase. The locations in other states are yet to be finalised, he added.

UIC CEO Denis Vitalyevich Cherednichenko said: "The irradiation centers that we are planning to design, build and put into operation will use the technology and technical solution based on gamma-facility and/or electron accelerator."

The exact cost will be determined after assessing the economic feasibility and completing relevant preparatory work, he said. "Depending on the technological solution used in the project and considering the selected options for the center, the average cost of the irradiation center usually ranges between USD 4 million to USD 20 million."

Within the framework of bilateral cooperation, it is considered acceptable to extend a network of integrated infrastructure centers for irradiation treatment in the UAE, Mauritius and Malaysia, he added. Radiation treatment is carried out in dosage recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and it neither reduces the nutritional value of food nor spoils their taste and appearance, Cherednichenko said.

"This project will become an example of international cooperation in the sphere of nuclear technology development as well as the role of the peaceful use of nuclear power in addressing global challenges including those related to sustainable development," he said.

Russian technologies are being used in 22 countries in 515 radiation plants, he added.
Radura
foodirradiation.org 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
reustice@gmail.com