Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
September  2017
Featured Article: Ghana will use food irradiation to improve food security: (August 26, 2017) News Ghana
Ghana is planning to expand the use of irradiation to reduce post-harvest food losses
ACCRA: Post-harvest food and grain losses pose serious challenges for most of African countries. According to estimates provided by the African Post-harvest Losses Information System, the value of post-harvest grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa could total US$4billion a year out of an estimated annual grain production worth US$27billion.
This is roughly equivalent to the value of annual cereal imports in the region during the same period. Given the near-doubling of global grain prices over the last decade, the value of current losses is likely much higher. Conservatively, such a magnitude of food loss could meet the minimum annual food requirements of at least 48 million people across the continent.
In Ghana a significant part of food crops produced is being lost due to number of reasons, including high moisture, pests and other diseases. In some cases as much as 35% of cereal and between 20-60% of tubers, root crops and bulbs are lost. Moreover, Ghana losses about 320 000 tons of maize annually, which accounts to 18% of the annual maize production. According to the report by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), as much as 60% of Yam produced in Ghana, for instance, does not make it to the consumer.

To prevent spoilage, farmers have to sell their produce cheaply during harvest. This leads to early shortage on the market and high prices and also shortage on the export market. There is also loss in quality through sprouting and rotting for those tubers that are stored. There is therefore a need to extend shelf life and improve the quality of yam.
The figures raise concern against the background that according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the global productivity should increase by nearly 70% to meet the demands of growing population. With current challenges that Africa faces, the achievement of this goal will be quite difficult without implementation of modern techniques.
To tackle this issue, the Ghanaian scientists decided to use nuclear irradiation to keep food and grains safe and healthy. Indeed, the food irradiation could play a significant role in reducing food losses and improve food safety. Nuclear treatment of produced food helps to extend shelf life and improve significantly the quality of offered production.
This method is not only high efficient, but also safe and does not pose any risk to end consumers. The World Health Organization, FAO, and IAEA have reviewed accumulated data from about 50 years of research. They found that irradiated food is as safe as food preserved with other techniques, such as freezing or canning.
Among the other techniques of food preservation, the irradiation is the most extensively studies one from the point of view of toxicology and side effects. Decades of testing among all over the world demonstrated that the irradiation does not have adverse effects on consumer.
Unlike traditional forms of food preservation nuclear techniques do not cause changes to the taste, appearance, nutrition value and final quality of food. After irradiation the food does not become "radioactive". Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation without direct contact to the source of the energy. The food also does not come into contact with the energy source, so it cannot become contaminated by radioactive material.
Ghana has a long history in gamma irradiation research through the GAEC's National Nuclear Research Institute (NNRI) and the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI).
The BNARI of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has the only gamma irradiation facility in the country however, the installed capacity of the plant is not adequate to process the tonnage requirements of agricultural produce of Ghana.
In this case Ghana is planning to beef up its capacities in nuclear irradiation and science by exploring possibilities to create a special center of nuclear science and technologies.
Ghana needs a new center and research facilities to use its innovations in different   
MYTH of the MONTH: "Gamma rays are naughty and x-rays are nice." By Russell Stein
"Gamma rays are naughty and x-rays are nice."

This statement is pure prejudice. Both cobalt-60 and 
X-ray accelerators produce ionizing photons (radiation) that are indistinguishable from one another and have the exact same effect on the material being irradiated.

Cobalt-59 is a metal that is mined from various places around the world.  After smelting, it is cast into small slugs or wafers, nickel plated, and placed in a nuclear reactor.  Because cobalt-59 really likes to absorb neutrons, it is used in the control rods of various nuclear reactors.  When an atom of cobalt-59 eats a neutron, it becomes cobalt-60.  After many months of critical service to the reactor, the cobalt is removed, doubly encapsulated, and serves a new and useful function as a source of gamma rays instead of becoming nuclear waste.
Cobalt-60 suffers from an identity crisis as it really wants to be nickel-60 (naturally abundant nickel).  After 5.27 years, half of the cobalt-60 atoms in the world will have transformed into nickel-60 ("half-life").  When each atom changes identity ("decays"), they release specific energy in the form of one electron and two photons.  Once transformed, they exist, happily ever after, as (non-radioactive) nickel-60.  Cobalt-60 and Nickel-60 are physically very similar to each other.  They are both very clean metals and by using your senses, you would not be able to distinguish between stable nickel-60 and unstable cobalt-60 atoms.  The two photons that are released are referred to as "gamma rays".  One photon has an energy of 1.17 million electron volts (MeV); the other 1.33 MeV.
X-rays start their journey as very low energy electrons stripped off of atoms.  For food irradiation in most of the world, these electrons can be physically energized to a typical energy of 5 MeV by using an electromagnetic gun (e-beam accelerator).  The accelerated electrons are aimed at a plate of high density metal.  The impact of the very fast moving electrons hitting the plate of high density metal releases three forms of energy.  Around 90% of the energy is wasted as heat.  A good chunk of the energy released is in the form of electrons that have been slowed down, but not stopped, by the impact.  A relatively small percentage of the impact energy is converted to photons.  These photons are referred to as "x-rays".  They have a smear of energies that range from virtually zero electron volts to energies as high as that of the initial electrons (in this example 5 MeV).  After some filtering, most of the photons are in the same energy range as those produced by the cobalt-60.
In effect, gamma photons start as parts of the nucleus of cobalt atoms and x-ray photons start as the electrons of atoms of metal.  Typically cobalt-60 is created in commercial nuclear power reactors as the reactor generates electricity.  X-rays are produced by using large amounts of electricity via an e-beam accelerator.  Hopefully the electricity used to create the x-ray photons was produced in a reactor that was also creating the cobalt-60 used as a source of gamma photons....all is clean.  Or, perhaps the electricity used to produce the x-rays comes from a less clean form of energy?  Would those be naughty x-ray photons?
All photons are not created equal.  But, they are equal once created.  A gamma ray photon and an x-ray photon of the same energy are, in every way, identical.  The only difference is the story of their origin.  From that perspective, gamma rays are no naughtier than their doppelganger x-rays.
If a food being irradiated had eyes that could see the radiation, gamma and x-ray photons would be the same color. The specific processing and logistics of her porridge and determine what is "just right".
Link to Article ...
Russell Stein 
Bengal Government to establish food processing protocols which include irradiation (August 10, 2017) Millenium Post:
Irradiation is a major emphasis in Bengal, India to improve food quality by using technology.
BENGAL: The Bengal government will soon come up with a food processing policy and a host of incentives for investors, said Nandini Chakravorty, secretary, Food Processing and Horticulture, Bengal. She was speaking to CII Eastern Region Agriculture & Food Processing Taskforce members comprising CEOs of food processing industries, feed and fertilizer industries, cold storages, heads of banks and heads of Export Promotion Councils such as MPEDA and SHEFEXIL on Thursday.
Prominent among the industry members was B Sumant, Chairman, CII Eastern Region Agriculture & Food Processing Taskforce & President - FMCG Business, ITC Ltd. The state government is providing subsidy for setting up packhouses and cold storage modification, she said, adding that the West Bengal government is committed to help small companies, especially those facing problems over land and litigation. The state government is also focusing on providing better safety of products by setting up of irradiation facility at Chinsurah, she said, adding that fruits and vegetables grown in West Bengal have the potential to hit markets in the US and Europe. A consignment of mangoes has recently been sent to European Union, she said.   
Australia: Qantas Dreamliners put North American desinations within reach; Freshfruit Portal (August 30, 2017)
Air transport and irradiation are boosting Australian food export opportunities.
MELBOURNE: A key hub for Australian air freight has received a boost this week after airline Qantas announced it would base half its new fleet of ultra-long range passenger aircraft in the Queensland capital of Brisbane.
In an announcement, Qantas said the first Dreamliner would arrive in Brisbane in mid-2018 with the remaining three to be in place in the subtropical city by the end of next year.
State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk highlighted the deal would bring 470 jobs, with the four Dreamliners worth AUD$1 billion collectively.
"It will put Brisbane in range of direct flights to cities including Dallas, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Chicago and Seattle, opening up new markets for business and tourism," Palaszczuk said.
In a release, Qantas highlighted the new generation of aircraft would not only open up the possibility of direct flights to new North American destinations, but also new potential routes in Asia.
"We've said that initially our Dreamliners will replace the routes that our older 747 fly but there are also new destinations we are looking at given the capability of the aircraft," said CEO Alan Joyce.
"A range of exciting options is on the table that will help drive tourism to the state and we look forward to making that decision in coming months.
"I'd like to acknowledge the support of the Queensland Government, Brisbane Airport Corporation and Tourism Australia for helping to make our Brisbane  
Dreamliner base a reality."
Qantas operates 58 return, direct international services each week from Brisbane to Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Noumea, Port Moresby, Singapore and Tokyo.
The airline also operates more than 620 return services from Brisbane per week to 25 destinations across its domestic network and more than 390 return services per week to 20 destinations within Queensland.
In December 2016 Qantas announced that the airline's first four in its fleet of eight Dreamliners would be based in Melbourne, serving the Melbourne - Los Angeles route from December 2017 and the Melbourne - London (via Perth) route from March 2018. This is the world's first service to link Australia directly with the U.K.
Brisbane is home to the Steritech irradiation facility which has been the centerpiece for new fruit export protocols into markets including
Also in the News: India's Ag Minister calls on industry to use irradiation (August 6, 2017):
India's Agriculture Minister Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura.
DELHI: Agriculture Minister Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura met Union MoS at PMO Jitendra Singh in New Delhi today and sought assistance of atomic energy technology for long-term food and agricultural product preservation.

As Jitendra Singh is also looking after the Department of Atomic Energy, Lone requested him to direct Scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai to help the officials and functionaries in the J&K Department of Agriculture to develop the requisite technical know-how for long-term preservation of certain high value agriculture products, like mushroom, Rajmash, etc which are distinctly known to grow in the State, a statement from Singh's office said.

Jitendra Singh informed the minister that Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai has a separate and exclusive unit of food preservation and irradiation. It also, from time to time, holds demonstrations about the various techniques employed in this process and also considers offering training in the same , he said. 

With the modern hi-tech facility and scientific update available, Jitendra Singh said, irradiation and similar other techniques can be used to prolong the preservation life of certain vegetables,fruits and other agricultural products, which allows time for transportation to different areas and at the same time, also offers the prospect of an extra revenue. 

Jitendra Singh assured Lone that a frame-work will be worked out within a day or so as to plan as to whether the trainers will travel to the State or some of the relevant State officials may be deputed to spend a few weeks in the BARC to acquire the necessary skills. An MoU can also be signed for the purpose.
Status of Radiation Processing in Iran (August 31, 2017) :
An article titled "A review on the status and future trends of radiation processing in Iran" has been published in the Journal of Radiation Research and Applied Sciences. 

The full article can be accessed through the link below. is an excellent source of information on food irradiation.

Food Irradiation Update is published by Ronald Eustice.  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





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