Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
September  2014
Food Irradiation Update is published monthly by Ronald F. Eustice, a food quality & safety assurance consultant based in Minneapolis and Tucson. He can be reached at:
and at 612.202.1016.

I have spent the past month in Uruguay, a small South American country nestled next to Argentina and Brazil. I was an International 4-H Youth Exchange student in Uruguay in 1967/68 and I am still in contact with several host families. Uruguay may be small in size (about the same size as North Dakota) and sparsely populated (3 million people) but it is a giant in food production. Seventy-two percent of dairy products produced in Uruguay are sold for export. Recently Mexico and Peru have purchased dairy processing plants in Uruguay. Conaprole (Cooperativa Nacional de Productos Lacteos) is the largest private company in Uruguay. The Uruguayan beef industry is one of the world's best with over 12 million head of cattle. The good news is that Uruguay, lead by a highly skilled team of experts is moving forward with food irradiation. Uruguay has another great opportunity to be a leader in food production by using irradiation to make their food safer, expand export markets for fruits and vegetables and expand the shelf-life of products destined for export to the far corners of the world. Felicidades mis amigos!

Link to Ron Eustice's Facebook page to learn more...

FEATURED ARTICLE: Uruguay moves forward with food irradiation; By Anibal Abreu

In August, the National Irradiation Committee of Uruguay and LATU (Laboratorios Tecnologicos del Uruguay) had the pleasure to receive the presence of Ronald F. Eustice who explained "The situation of irradiation food in United States and American countries", with interesting information about the main items treated in the USA, such as meat products (8,000 metric tons), seafood (increasing fast), fruits and vegetables (20,000 metric tons).

We appreciate Mr. Eustice's presence, and his continuous support of our project and the pleasure of his visit in our country. Seen here; L-R: Margaret Eustice (Ron's wife). Dr. Jorge Servian, Anibal Abreu and Ronald Eustice.

Irradiation in Uruguay; By Anibal Abreu

Since 2002, the Technological Laboratory of Uruguay (LATU) has been working on a national project to introduce the irradiation technology in our country.

As result of this preliminary work we formulated a plan which named "Introduction of Irradiation Technology in Uruguay". Our general objective is to Introduce irradiation technology as multipurpose application in Uruguay as alternative quality, sanitary and phytosanitary measures to stimulate food production and improve the quality of food products marketed to local and foreign markets.

This project has two stages; We are currently in the first stage, the Pilot Stage (Irradiation Project - LATU) that was supported by URU 5027 IAEA "Preparation for the Introduction of Irradiation Technique in Uruguay" and Regional Project RLA 8046 "Controlling Industrial Process Quality and Radiation Dosimetry.")

We also have an Industrial Stage (Private Sector) supported by URU 1006 IAEA and RLA 5066 - IAEA. Next year we will begin the industrial scale with Electron Beam technology.

For the Pilot Stage we have installed Argentinian equipment (EMI 9), which is a small device used to apply irradiation on products in containers. We will use different equipment for the industrial scale because of the private sector involvement. Product will be introduced in a larger machine, in their final packaging ready for export.
The specific objectives of the pilot stage of our Uruguayan project have been entirely achieved. First of all, we have the first pilot scale irradiator in our country. Also we have the regulations for food irradiation (National Bromatological Regulation - Chapter 1, Section 3 - Food Preservation Procedures), incorporated, since 01/12/2008 (Decree 589/008, chapter 31- Food Irradiation), dividing irradiated food in different classes. We have also completed research to determine the technological options and procedures as well as the selection of equipment for the industrial stage.


We want to emphasize an important objective of our project: tests with food producers and the development of new and interesting applications for emerging markets. We are also strengthening already established opportunities, with different objectives with emphasis on the quality aspects of food irradiation as a phytosanitary measure, the extension of shelf life, the elimination of post-harvest losses and reduction of food borne diseases.

In the framework of our national project, we continue to move forward with support from the IAEA. From the beginning, we have been working within the National Irradiation Committee (NIC). 

The most interesting items we have identified for application in the industrial are: Alfajores, cacao, spices, medical and surgical equipment, tomato sauce, potatoes, onions, garlics and blueberries, Ready to eat meals, processed vegetables, citrus, hamburgers and cloves.
Within our local project, we have treated food at a semi-commercial scale during 2012 -2013. Products tested included spices, food industry additives and dried herbs. We are also testing other food products to determination dosimetry for commercial evaluation on an industrial scale, for example, citrus fruits, fresh and dried blueberries, industrial meat (trimming), burgers, ready meals, fish, cheese, immunosuppressed dishes, alfajores (sweet biscuit), etc.


With more than 12 million head of cattle, Uruguay ranks 7th in the world for beef exports. Uruguay has only 3 million people and is about the size of North Dakota.





















We been working on different irradiation projects, the most important are:

 1.    Impact of the treatment of raw frozen hamburgers produced in Uruguay, with gamma radiation on its hygienic and sensory quality and its shelf life.

2.    Effect of the treatment of ionizing radiation on sensory and microbiological shelf life in ¨alfajores¨ covered by simile chocolate.

 3.    Irradiation of frozen fish (three species Tilapia, Sturgeon and Shark) and study of the evolution of the natural microbial load and sensory attributes on irradiated defrosting fish.

 4.    Treatment with ionizing energy to control butyric acid fermentation on long ripening cheese.

 5.    Test on fresh fruits - quarantine measure and minimally processed.

 6.    Use of Irradiation for hygienic safety of fruits and vegetables intended for export.

 7.    Study of the prevalence of shigatoxigenic Escherichia coli on raw frozen hamburger of local market and application of non-thermal innovative technologies to its mitigation (irradiation and high pressure).

 8.    Menu of meat, fresh vegetables and fruits, ready to eat, treated with gamma radiation for immunocompromised patients.

 9.    Evaluation of the effect of gamma radiation on the content of Fusarium mycotoxins (Deoxynivalenol) in grain and flour wheat.

10.   Use of low-dose irradiation to control pathogenic bacteria on meat trimmings for production of patties aiming at provoking minimal changes in quality attributes


In this way, in 2015 start our participation in the regional Project RLA/5/066 IAEA "Commercial Application of Food Irradiation Treatment with Electron Beam and X-Ray in Latin America and the Caribbean".


In August, the NIC had the pleasure to receive the presence of Ronald Eustice who explained "The situation of irradiation food in United States and American countries", with interesting information about the main items treated in the USA, such as meat products (8,000 metric tons), seafood (increasing fast), fruits and vegetables (20,000 metric tons).

We appreciate Mr. Eustice's presence, and his continuous support of our project and the pleasure of his visit in our country. 

Irradiation Unit Team - LATU

Aníbal V. Abreu -

Boss Irradiation Unit

President of National Irradiation Committee

Analía Martínez - Dosimetry Officer

Learn more about LATU:

"Irradiated food tastes bad."

"Irradiated food tastes bad."



Some foods irradiated at certain doses can have flavor changes.  However, if they have a bad taste they will not be marketable.  Therefore, irradiated food that is sold in stores does not taste bad.

The irradiation of food is a gentle process when compared to other processes such as heating.  Normally, there is very little effect on the food.  For some foods, there are effects on taste that are detectable at certain dose levels.


When a company is interested in irradiating their food product they test samples of the food by irradiating them to the highest dose that they would expect commercial lots of the food to receive.  They need to handle these samples as close as practical to the way that they would handle commercial product.  Product handling and shipping might have an effect on the food product that is independent from the irradiation process.  When performing these tests, it is also important to send a control sample along with the samples to be irradiated.  This control should be treated as close as practical to the samples that are irradiated...effectively irradiated to a zero dose.  A second control sample should be kept at the place of origin to be able to compare this sample with both the irradiated samples and the "zero dose" control sample.  By using this approach, the food company can determine if the handling, shipping and/or the irradiation has had any effect on their product.  Often these effects can be minimized or eliminated by changing the way the product is handled.


Once a company has tested their product, under their handling conditions, they need to evaluate the product to determine if there are any effects.  More importantly, if there are any effects, they need to determine if those effects would have a negative impact on marketing the product.  Obviously, if they do, then they would not market the product.   Sometimes there are negative effects that are minimal (would not affect the marketing of the product) or positive effects that might actually enhance the marketing of the product.  The important point is that if a food company determines that there is a significant negative effect on their product, it would not be marketed and therefore, not available to consumers.  A company is not going to sell a food product that has a bad taste.


Many years ago when it was realized that there may be advantages to irradiating food, extensive "basic" research was performed.  Food was irradiated at very high doses to determine what effects the irradiation had on food.  One of the questions was how high a dose could a specific food be irradiated to before developing a bad taste?  Obviously, to determine this dose, it was required to irradiate the test samples until a bad taste was detected.  This leads to a statement that I hear quite often:  "I've read that irradiated [fill in your favorite food] taste horrible!"  That leads to my questions:  "What was the dose that it was irradiated at, and under what conditions, such as temperature?"  Similarly, any food will also taste bad if overcooked.  If a hamburger was cooked at 600 degrees for an hour, I'm sure you would not find it on the menu at your local burger joint.  Does this mean that we shouldn't be able to buy properly cooked hamburgers?


Irradiation may have a negative impact at a certain dose on specific foods.  If they do, then they will not be marketed.  However, this should never be used as an excuse not to allow the use of irradiation on food.  If this argument were used on the cooking of hamburgers, our Labor Day menu would be severely impacted.


On a side note, sometimes the irradiation of certain foods has a positive effect on taste.  Personally I prefer the taste of irradiated crab meat.  But, then again, I love creamed succotash!


Russell N. Stein



Fruits soon to use irradiation as an alternative to harmful chemicals; Foods are already approved for irradiation, Karen Collier; Sun Herald (August 28, 2014):
Apples, grapes, strawberries,and other popular fruits that have been irradiated to eliminate pests could soon appear on more grocery shelves.
MELBOURNE: APPLES, grapes, strawberries and other popular fruits could soon be treated with irradiation before reaching Australian grocery store shelves.


The nation's food watchdog has recommended allowing apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, honeydew, rockmelon, strawberries, table grapes, zucchini and squash to be zapped with the pest control method. The treatment is already approved for tomatoes, capsicums, persimmons, herbs and spices, herbal infusions and some tropical fruits. It is an alternative to chemicals to kill or sterilise fruit flies and other pests.


Irradiated food passes through a radiation field generated by high-energy electron beams, X-rays or gamma rays.


Food authorities irradiation used for fruit and vegetables is safe and doesn't destroy nutritional quality. The proposal could potentially push up prices because of mandatory labelling requirements and other costs, risk assessment documents reveal. However, prices could also fall if greater year-round availability increased competition.


The latest proposal follows an application from Queensland's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

"Irradiation is being sought as an alternative treatment to some pesticides, which are no longer permitted or permissions for use have changed," Food Standards Australia New Zealand chief Steve McCutcheon said.


"FSANZ has reviewed the evidence on the safety of these irradiated fruits and found they are safe to eat. The literature also shows the maximum dose permitted does not reduce the nutritional quality."

Mr McCutcheon said food irradiation was used in more than 50 countries to destroy bacteria and pests and to extend shelf life.

FSANZ is taking submissions. Final approval would be required from food ministers.


If approved, businesses could voluntarily choose to use irradiation on the wider range of foods.

Link to article... 

Read more here...

New Meat Labelling: A Band-Aid Solution;By Sylvain Charlesbois; Times Colonist, Victoria, BC; (August 31, 2014): 

GUELPH: Canadian consumers visiting meat counters lately will have noticed new labels. Since Aug. 21, Canadian consumers have been able to read clearly whether meat products have been mechanically tenderized.

Two years after the XL Foods recall in 2012, the largest in Canadian history, the public is now being apprised of the use of industrial needles and blades to break down collagens. It will be interesting to see how consumers react to this new piece of information in the months to come. However, new risk-mitigating regulation falls way short of responding to a much larger food safety threat: pathogen contamination.

A process widely used in the food industry, the mechanical tenderization of meats allows for some varieties of cuts to be more palatable for consumers. But back in 2012, mechanical tenderizers at XL Foods were not properly maintained. As a result, millions of kilos of beef were contaminated and many consumers ended up in the hospital.

Tenderizers literally push pathogens deep into meats which make it more difficult for consumers to reduce risks when cooking steaks or roasts at home. Soon after the recall, an independent report suggested special labels ought to be put on packages. And so here we are.

In some ways, this new labelling rule makes sense. It will clearly better support the business to business arena, particularly institutional buyers and restaurant owners. More shared information between businesses will likely reduce the risks of larger-scale outbreaks.

The benefits of the new regulation are less than obvious, however, when we look at the new legislation from a consumer perspective. With these new labels, some observers believe consumers will take a stand and ban mechanically tenderized meats, the practice eventually being phased out altogether. Consequently, many wonder why regulators have not forbidden the practice in the first place.

There are obviously socioeconomic reasons for this. Mechanical tenderization does allow affordable animal protein sources to taste better than they would otherwise and, in light of recent price hikes of meat products, many consumers would likely agree that a complete prohibition would be extreme.

Labelling, though, does not reduce risks or compel industry to apply more rigour to quality-assurance practices. It is simply a risk-communication measure. Essentially, risks will remain, but they are now more explicitly shared with the public.

Nonetheless, labels can be powerful. In 2005, the practice of labelling the presence of trans fats without banning their use almost completely eradicated them. Consumers became aware that although trans fats can increase product shelf-life and make food taste better, they also increase the risk of coronary heart diseases. Since then, we have seen many novel, healthier products being introduced, free of trans fats.

Even so, food irradiation - the process of exposing food to a controlled amount of energy to prevent food poisoning and spoilage - remains the most effective method to reduce the number pathogens in meats. We already irradiate spices, wheat, flour, onions, potatoes and other goods in Canada, but not meats.

For better food safety, this is a process Canadian food regulators should permit. Other countries have.

Labelling mechanically tenderized products is essentially a Band-Aid solution (albeit one that promises some therapeutic benefit) for a broader dilemma. Risk-communication measures ought to be coupled with risk-reduction practices - always. Enticing consumers to be more concerned only upon purchasing a product is short-sighted and, frankly, perilous.

A comprehensive solution would allow meats to be irradiated and consumers to be aware of what happens to their product before it finds its way to meat counters. Both facets are equally imperative.

Link to Article:

Sylvain Charlebois is a professor of food distribution and policy at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

© Copyright Times Colonist

Ceylon Chamber presentation on 'Value Addition through Irradiation'; Daily FT; (August 19, 2014):

COLOMBO: The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in association with the Sri Lanka Gamma Centre organized a presentation on 'Value Addition through Irradiation' on 4 September at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce auditorium. 

The meeting focused on explaining the role of the Sri Lanka Gamma Centre (SLGC), what irradiation is, benefits of Irradiation for manufacturers/exporters, facilities available and services provided, etc.
Irradiation is the process by which an object is exposed to radiation. The exposure can originate from various sources, including natural sources. Most frequently the term refers to ionising radiation, and to a level of radiation that will serve a specific purpose, rather than radiation exposure to normal levels of background radiation.
The term irradiation usually excludes the exposure to non-ionising radiation, such as infra-red, visible light, microwaves from cellular phones or electromagnetic waves emitted by radio and TV receivers and power supplies.
The Sri Lanka Gamma Centre, which comes under the purview of Lanka Automic Energy Facilities Ltd. of the Ministry of Technology and Research Sri Lanka, is now ready to provide irradiation services at Biyagama Export Processing Zone.
It is also the first Government-owned multipurpose gamma irradiation facility and started operations in 2014 to provide irradiation service to industries which need irradiation in their manufacturing chain.

The product sectors, which could make use of the Gamma centre's facilities comprise Ayurvedic products, coir pith, cosmetics, gloves - rubber, industrial, medical, onions, potatoes, garlic, packaging, seafood, spices, vegetables and wooden objects, etc.

Expand use of food irradiation: A direct benefit to Indian farmers:

DELHI: The Government of India, mainly through the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), has made great efforts and taken important steps during the last few years for introducing irradiation technology for food safety and security in the country. As an example of these efforts, two technology demonstration facilities have been built in order to show the benefits of irradiation technology to farmers, traders and exporters. In 2001 a radiation processing plant at Vashi, Navi Mumbai, was built in order to process spices. At present this facility has 430 kCi of cobalt-60 activity and is irradiating more than 2000 tons of spices and other materials. The construction of another irradiator was started in 1998 and it became fully operational in 2003. The facility, named KRUSHAK, is located at Lasalgaon, in Nashik District, 250 km east of Mumbai. KRUSHAK is an acronym for 'Krushi Utpadan Sanrakshan Kendra', literally translated in English as 'agricultural produce conservation centre'. The KRUSHAK irradiator is a specially designed technology demonstration unit for low dose applications of irradiation, primarily for controlling sprouting in stored onions and insect disinfestation of agricultural commodities for storage and quarantine. In 2003 only two farmers and an onion processing company irradiated about 30 tons of onion in this facility; however, due to the dissemination of technical information in the surrounding villages, the quantity of irradiated onions, as well as the number of end users (farmers), increased more than 10 times in 2004. This is a successful example of transfer of irradiation technology in this country.

At present, a dozen Memorandums of Understanding have been signed between the entrepreneurs and the BARC/Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology (BRIT) for setting up multi-product radiation processing facilities. About four of them have already finalized the financing and began construction. 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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