Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
September 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. 
Mexico continues to show us the way! For companies and countries looking for a model to follow as they open markets for irradiated produce, Mexico can be the example they are looking for.

In 2015, 11,700 ton of irradiated Mexican produce was exported to the US. This was a 17 percent increase over 2014. Mexico exported their first shipments of irradiated guavas in 2008. Volumes were small and the guavas were mostly sold through ethnic Mexican grocers. Gradually, mango and chile manzano were added to the list. Today the list includes 12 commodities and the largest US retailers proudly offer irradiated Mexican produce. Gracias amigos por un trabajo bien hecho!  
Featured Article: Irradiation is helping Mexican fruit growers expand exports.
By Ronald F. Eustice
Exports of irradiated Mexican fruit to the United States are growing at an annual rate of more than 15 percent. The radura symbol is plainly visible on the packaging. Attractive "clam shell" packaging is helping to increase sales. Leading supermarkets offer irradiated Mexico fruit. 
There is a popular saying in Mexico, "Too far from God and so close to the United States!" However, the geographic proximity of Mexico to the world's largest consumer market does have many advantages.
Fruit and vegetable growers south of the US border are reaping huge rewards as hundreds of semi-trailer trucks cross the US border daily. USDA statistics show that Mexico by far is the most important supplier of fresh produce to the U.S., accounting for about 40% of U.S. fresh fruit import value. In 2015, 11,700 ton of irradiated Mexican produce was exported to the US. This was a 17 percent increase over 2014. Eighty-three percent of the amount was guava followed by chile manzano (Capsicum pubescens) at 8.4 percent and mango at 6.7 percent. Several major US retailers proudly offer irradiated Mexican produce on their store shelves. Consumer acceptance has been extremely strong.

One of the obstacles that has prevented exports of some Mexican fruit to the US in the past has been fruit flies. The US wants Mexican fruit but not Mexican bugs. Irradiation is usually the most effective, often the most economical and nearly always the most environmentally-friendly way to eliminate these pests and protect American agriculture.

Phytosanitary irradiation is helping Mexico access the lucrative US market. ASEFIMEX (Asociación de Empacadoras de Frutas Irradiadas de México), is the cooperating organization with USDA for the irradiation program. Benebion, Mexico's first irradiation facility devoted entirely to food, based in Matehuala, San Luis Potosi, is playing a major role in making Mexican fruit exports to the US a reality.

Attractive "clam shell" packaging containers has helped Mexico expand sales of irradiated produce in US markets. 
About a dozen different fruits are currently being irradiated. These include guava, mango, grapefruit, mandarin, carambola, pomegranate, fig, pitahaya, pitaya, prickly Pear, starfruit and rambutan.

Irradiation is mandatory for four commodities to enter the US; guava, chile manzano, sweet lime and figs. Other food products irradiated in Mexico include a wide variety of fresh, dehydrated or frozen products that are treated to reduce microbial count.

Mexican producers and exporters have perfected the production, logistics and export process of many types of fruit especially mango, citrus fruits, guavas and berries. Mexican mango and guavas each have about 20 percent of the total global market share. Fruit and vegetable exports have grown rapidly in recent years and all indications are that this growth will continue to accelerate as emphasis on "eating healthy" increases.

Over 80 percent of irradiated fruit exported by Mexico to the US are guavas. Irradiation is a mandatory phytosanitary process for Mexican guavas. Irradiated guavas are proudly displayed on major US retail shelves. 
Mexico was one of the first countries to sign the USDA's Framework Equivalency Work Plan (FEWP). This agreement allows US producers to access Mexican markets as well as vice-versa.

The first commercial consignment of US produce irradiated as a phytosanitary treatment at Gateway America, Gulfport, Mississippi was exported to Mexico in 2015.

MYTH of the MONTH: "Food Irradiation." By Russell Stein
" Food Irradiation"

The term "Food Irradiation" has no practical meaning. "Food" is not irradiated. However, specific products, which are consumed as food, are irradiated for specific purposes.

A company that produces ground beef purchases an irradiator. Their plan is to irradiate their final packaged product to minimize the health threat of food borne pathogens for their customers. Do they become a Food Irradiation company? No, they are still a Meat Processing company.

A foreign company installs an irradiator to irradiate fruit for export to the United States. The purpose of the irradiator is to disinfest mangoes to assure that there are no viable insect pests that may potentially harm US crops. Are they a Food Irradiation company? No, they are a Fruit Exporter.

I want to have hamburgers tonight. I am going to go to my favorite market. There I am going to look for hamburger patties. Personally, I prefer the added safety assurance of purchasing irradiated patties, so if they have both irradiated and non-irradiated hamburgers in stock, I will purchase the irradiated burgers.

If they only have non-irradiated hamburgers for sale, I will still purchase them even if they do have irradiated mangoes on their shelves. I am not going to the store to buy "irradiated food". I am going to the store to buy hamburgers...and perhaps a can of creamed succotash.
Link to article ...

Russell Stein 
Could irradiation protocols give Aussie exports a competitive edge? Fresh Fruit Portal (September 2, 2016): 
Benjamin Reilly and Seth Hamilton of Steritech
The Australia industry has achieved a string of irradiation protocols in recent years allowing for exports that keep the cold chain constant, are chemical-free and can make all the difference for freshness and premium pricing. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

The bulk of Brisbane-based Steritech's irradiated products are not to do with fresh produce - medical equipment, sterilized packaging, beehives, and the list goes on.

But more than a decade ago the facility was the first globally to set up whole pallet irradiation specifically designed for fresh fruits and vegetables, and today it handles 3,000 metric tons (MT) of produce a year.
"We've seen exponential increases in tons treated. For the last three years this growth has averaged 50% annually," says export business development executive Ben Reilly.

"This is one of the most efficient treatment plants in the world - it's been specifically designed with horticulture in mind, and we continue to pursue the latest technology in the area which is e-beam and X-Ray," he says, adding the facility currently uses gamma technology. To put this volume in context, the plant has 60,000MT of capacity.
"It's a bit like saying we have one pallet in the container, with room to fit another 19," says Reilly.

The opportunity to fill this container is growing, starting with protocols in New Zealand which accepts five commodities - mangoes, litchis, papayas, tomatoes and capsicums (bell peppers) - and moving on to Malaysia for mangoes, Vietnam for citrus and table grapes, the U.S. for mangoes and litchis, and Indonesia for a whopping 44 different products.

"There's also an irradiation protocol pending for Thailand," says Reilly. "Thailand has historically been a good market for Australia but there were market entry restrictions affecting trade, particularly airfreight. A lot of people in the industry see irradiation as a valuable treatment option to reopen that airfreight window because it is fast, efficient, and cold chain-friendly.

"There is a pathway for persimmons to be approved for Thailand - the benefit is Australia will have established its first irradiation protocol potentially making it easier to add other items such as grapes and citrus," adds quality assurance officer Seth Hamilton.

These are all positive developments, but for the Steritech team and also the Australian industry, the big prize is North Asia. China, Japan and South Korea allow a range of treatments for mainland Australian fruit but irradiation is not yet one of them. As an example, Reilly points out the recent success for Australian nectarine growers who gained access to China via a cold disinfestation and fumigation protocol.

"Fumigation is good because it is fast suited for airfreight, while cold treatment is good because it can treat large volumes. "Unfortunately fumigation breaks the cold chain while cold disinfestation is a process that takes weeks. Irradiation has the ability to combine the benefits of both treatments without any of the major limitations."

Steritech irradiation facility
Reilly says irradiation is relatively fast, high volume and a chemical-free, gas-free treatment that does not require the cold chain to be broken. "The current irradiation facility in Queensland can process product to fill a 40ft container in about an hour of machine time," he says.

"It's potentially the fastest treatment available and for our Australian growers who are looking to find a competitive edge in the premium markets it can be a massive advantage. "Getting in early with airfreight-friendly protocols or a direct shipping line service equates to increased sales and program value which is what we saw in Vietnam with Australian grapes last season.
Irradiated Peruvian figs and pomegranates now eligible for US import. Fresh Fruit Portal (August 10, 2016): 
Following on from a Peruvian government announcement in June, the U.S. Animal
Irradiated figs from Peru will soon be available in the US.
and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has officially opened the doors for imports of the South American country's pomegranates and figs.

In two new rules that will be made effective today, the U.S. authorities have determined commercial consignments of both fruits can be safely imported with safeguards like irradiation in place to prevent the introduction of plant pests.

The measures are a little bit different for each fruit. While figs will only need to be irradiated and inspected upon arrival in the continental United States, pomegranates will also have to be inspected in Peru.

At we spoke with Miguel Bentín, who is the vice president of Peruvian pomegranate association ProGranada and general manager with grower Valle y Pampa.

"In fact it's a great breakthrough for us, as an association and an industry," he said.
"This comes at an ideal time because with the opening of the United States what we have managed to get is an outlet to be able to better distribute our supply to the world - it's great for everyone."

Irradiation is the best possible phytosanitary treatment for pomegranate; not just safer but less innocuous in terms of quality.
He says irradiation is, in technical terms, the best treatment possible, especially for pomegranates as the fruit is very sensitive to other phytosanitary controls like cold treatment and fumigation.

"In this sense, irradiation is not just safer but more innocuous in terms of quality."
He said Valle y Pampa would do some test shipments this year in a small quantity via airfreight.

In commercial terms, the main export deal will be via seafreight starting in February next year and run until June or July.

He said volumes for 2017 would be up 15-25% on this year's crop.
Click here for an in-depth interview with a U.S. pomegranate marketer and his plans for sourcing Peruvian supply.
Link to article ...
Edible fruits that require* irradiation for import into the US (as of September 1, 2016): 

* The word REQUIRE in this context means that irradiation treatment must be used as a condition of entry and that there are no other phytosanitary techniques or treatments that may be used in lieu of irradiation.  Fruits that may either use irradiation or another treatment are not listed on this chart. This chart was created by USDA/APHIS and updates are maintained by industry.
Radura 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