Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice and sponsored  by GRAY*STAR Inc.
September  2018
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  
This issue features an article about my recent three-week trip to Pakistan as a consultant to Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture and the US-Pakistani Partnership for Market Development (AMD). I am very pleased with the interest Pakistan is showing toward irradiation. I am also very grateful to my hosts in Pakistan and the wonderful people that made my stay enjoyable and productive. Shukria!  شکریہ

Featured Article: Mango Gala Promotes Pakistan Mango Export; By Ronald F. Eustice 
The Mango Gala in Islamabad, Pakistan on August 6th was sponsored by the US-Pakistani Partnership for Market Development (AMD).
ISLAMABAD:  Pakistan is the world's fifth largest mango producer. Annual mango production is about 1.7 million metric tons with about 8 percent of this volume sold for export. Limited application of technology, consistent quality, pest control, and inconsistent grading have hampered efforts to expand exports of the wonderful Pakistan varieties of mango.  Hot water treatment currently is the primary method used to meet phytosanitary requirements in export markets, however, the process has a negative effect on the shelf life of the product. On the other hand, irradiation extends shelf life, does not affect quality and is the only method approved for US import.  

In 2017, Pakistan exported 162,264 pounds of mangoes to the United States.
In 2017, Pakistan exported 162,264  pounds  of mangoes to the United States. Most of the mangoes were irradiated at Gateway America, Gulfport, Mississippi. Texas A&M University, College Station also irradiated Pakistani mangoes. Volume for 2018 should exceed last year. Irradiation is a mandatory requirement for entry into the US of all mangoes from Pakistan. The USDA currently requires that irradiation be done in the U.S., but Pakistan is serious about exporting their 'King of Fruit' as they call their delicious mango, and irradiation in Pakistan will be a cost-effective option.

Ronald Eustice (shown above) explains some of the many benefits of food irradiation to an enthusiastic audience at the Mango Gala.
I have just returned from a three-week visit to Pakistan. One of several events that I participated in was the annual Mango Gala held in Islamabad on August 7th. This event was sponsored by the USAID-funded U.S.-Pakistan Partnership for Agricultural Market Development (AMD). I was invited to Pakistan by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) and was the featured speaker at a well-attended seminar held at the end of the event. Irradiation promises to enhance domestic food production and expand exports of Pakistani mango and other crops.

A young Pakistani woman promotes Pakistani mangoes in a video recording made at the Mango Gala.
The AMD project  in Pakistan is a USAID-funded, economic growth activity implemented by CNFA with the goal of supporting the development of Pakistan's commercial agriculture through improving the ability of Pakistan's agriculture sector to meet both international and domestic demand in citrus, mango, high value/off season vegetables (HV/OSV), and livestock.

Irradiation can transform the agriculture sector in Pakistan by decreasing post-harvest food losses due to spoilage and deterioration in quality and increasing market access for Pakistani crops. I am encouraged to see excitement in Pakistan.

MYTH of the MONTH: "Irradiation destroys essential vitamins and other nutrients. By Russell Stein
"Irradiation destroys essential vitamins and other nutrients." 
This statement is incorrect. Although irradiation can reduce some vitamins and other nutrients, it does not destroy them nor significantly alter the amount of nutrients relative to the total diet of the consumer.  

Food treated by irradiation is generally as nutritious as, or better than, the same food treated by the conventional familiar processes such as cooking, drying, or freezing. Numerous studies conclude that irradiation has no significant effect on the nutritional value of the macronutrients within foods (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates). Micronutrients, especially certain vitamins, can be reduced by irradiation, but generally these same vitamins are similarly reduced by the other commonly used food processing methods. Even simple storage can lead to major loss of certain vitamins.

The significance of any loss of specific vitamins must be evaluated relative to the role of the irradiated food as a source of that particular vitamin in the diet of the consuming public. This consideration is heavily weighted by the regulatory agencies in their evaluation of petitions for clearance to irradiate any food. The FDA, World Health Organization and the American Dietetic Association have all considered the nutritional aspects of irradiated food and endorsed the process.

An excellent argument can be made that by destroying pathogens in raw food, irradiation allows safer consumption of these foods thereby increasing their overall nutritional value. On August 22, 2008, the FDA approved the use of irradiation on fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce. Their safety review specifically addressed the effects of irradiation on vitamins and nutrients on products often consumed raw. On February 25, 2014 they reaffirmed their conclusion that food irradiation is nutritionally safe:

"In summary, based on the available data and information, FDA concludes that amending the regulations, as set forth below, to allow for the use of ionizing radiation to treat iceberg lettuce and spinach up to a maximum dose of 4 kGs.                  
Russell Stein 
Australia and Thailand announce a new irradiation pathway for horticultural exports; Mirage News (Sept. 7, 2018):    
Irradiation is helping Queensland persimmon growers export products to Thailand

SYDNEY: Persimmon growers across Queensland will have better market access to Thailand thanks to a trade agreement recently finalized. The agreement delivers a new irradiation plan for fresh produce to Thailand, which is newer and faster but also a safe and chemical free way to manage biosecurity.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said prior to this our persimmons could only be exported to Thailand under cold treatment.  "This agreement will help open doors for the Queensland persimmon farmers and deliver speed to market," Minister Littleproud said.

"To irradiate the fruit it goes into a giant chamber by conveyer belt and the fruit is sterilised, killing bacteria and pests, in this case the pesky fruit fly.  "With this deal done and dusted we can get on to tackling other commodities and get them on this same pathway. This will help get our quality produce onto Thailand supermarket shelves faster.

"I'm committed to improving market access for our farmers. Deals like this will help Aussie food production grow towards the NFF's target of a $100 billion agricultural industry by 2030.  "Agricultural trade between the two countries is currently worth $2 billion dollars and now this market will get stronger.

"Thailand is a prominent Asian leader and by working together to open this trade pathway we're hopeful other Asian countries will follow the example.

"Queensland farmers will also benefit from the recent signing of the Indonesia-Australia comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. The agreement will reduce tariffs on exports of livestock, beef and sheep meat, grains, sugar, citrus and horticulture produce.

"The Coalition Government has also delivered Free Trade Agreements with China, Japan and Korea.

"Farmers can look forward to better access to markets with a combined GDP of $13.7 trillion under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP-11)."
As part of the agreement, mangos from Thailand will also be eligible for export under the new irradiation pathway.
Fast Facts:
  • Australian horticulture is worth more than $10.5 billion, with the value of production forecast to reach $12 billion in real terms in 2022-23.
  • Australia's main horticultural exports to Thailand are citrus, grapes, nuts and strawberries.
  • For the year ending June 2017, Australia produced 2,516 tonnes of persimmons, valued at $10.5 million.
  • Persimmons are produced primarily in south east Queensland..

Faced with Growing Demand for Services, Philippine Nuclear Research Institute to Upgrade Irradiation Facility
Miklos Gaspar, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication 
Demand for irradiation services in Philippines exceeds ability to deliver.

Quezon City, Philippines- Much of the Philippines' spice and herbal products industry relies on the country's only gamma irradiator for microbiological decontamination, but the facility at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) can no longer cope with the increased demand. PNRI is working to upgrade the facility, with the help of the IAEA, and is lending support to the private sector and the government's National Development Company to establish a commercial facility in the near future.

"Irradiation is the most effective method for the decontamination of our products and not having the necessary access to the facility at PNRI will hurt our business," said Jojo Orolfo, Vice President for Sales and Marketing at Farmtec Foods Inc, one of the 91 clients of PNRI's irradiation facility. Farmtec Foods manufactures dehydrated shrimp products that are used as snack flavouring in the food industry, and makes deliveries of its products to PNRI's gamma irradiation facility in Quezon City near Manila weekly. But lately, Farmtec's access to the facility has been limited, as PNRI has an increasing number of clients to satisfy, while at the same time the radioactive source that produces the gamma rays is decaying and can supply a decreasing amount of radiation.

"We are primarily a research institute, and what the industry needs at this stage is a commercial operation," said Carlo A. Arcilla, PNRI's director. "With a high capacity irradiator available, a lot of the country's agricultural produce could become more competitive abroad."

Irradiation with gamma rays, a form of penetrating electromagnetic radiation produced during the radioactive decay of atomic nuclei, kills microorganisms and is used to decontaminate spices, seasonings, dehydrated vegetables and cosmetic raw materials. It is also used for the sterilization of medical devices and packaging materials.

Its use on a large scale could help grow the country's banana exports - increasing the shelf life of the fruits without the need for chemicals. "It would expand export markets to beyond our immediate neighbourhood," Arcilla said. "Imagine the extra revenue the country could make."
The upgrade

Through a technical cooperation project, PNRI is working with the IAEA on the upgrade of its facility, including the purchase of a new, more powerful radiation source. With the support of this project, PNRI is also working on establishing a full automation system to enhance the safety and throughput of the facility.

But this alone won't solve the larger capacity issue. Last month, PNRI convened a meeting of stakeholders from both industry and various government agencies to discuss a scheme, under which the government's development agency could set up the facility, which would over time be handed over to the private sector to operate. "PNRI is ready to support this initiative with expertise and advice," said Luvimina G. Lanuza, Head of Irradiation Services at PNRI.

PNRI staff used the meeting to gain a better understanding of users' needs and gathering relevant statistics on the contribution of gamma irradiation services to the country's industrial and economic development, Lanuza said.
The meeting was attended by IAEA experts, who - under a new technical cooperation project that covers several Asian countries - advise PNRI on how to develop the strategy, approach and economic assessment for the sustainable operation and services of its facility.

"We are very grateful to the IAEA's technical cooperation programme for providing us  assistance in both technical and R&D management aspects of this gamma irradiation project," Arcilla said.

New Yorker Dead From Salmonella Chicken; 8 Hospitalized; Hudson Valley Post (August 30, 2018):
One New Yorker died and 8 were hospitalized after eating chicken contaminated with salmonella
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service and Empire Kosher Poultry issued a public health alert after a number of salmonella-related illnesses were recently reported in the northeast.

As of Monday, 17 salmonella-related illnesses were reported in four states, 11 are from New York. Eight were hospitalized including one New Yorker who died, according to the CDC. Information about the New Yorker who died hasn't been released.

S ick people range in age from 76-years-old to less than a year.
The CDC reports that every person they interviewed, all said they got sick after eating chicken. Nine gave the chicken brand, with seven reporting they got sick after consuming Empire Kosher brand chicken. The other brand wasn't released.

Salmonella was found in samples of raw chicken collected by the CDC at two facilities, including one that processes Empire Kosher chicken. The other facilities name wasn't released.

The contaminated chicken likely includes whole raw chicken and raw chicken parts, sold as far back as September 2017. It's recommended you check your freezer for any chicken and cook the chicken to at least 165-degrees.

Eating food contaminated with salmonella can cause salmonellosis. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and a fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product.

The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment, but in some cases, diarrhea is so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.
Older adults, infants and anyone with a weakened immune system are more likely to develop a severe illness.
Cargill Recalls Ground Beef Due to E. Coli O157:H7 Concerns: Denver Post  (August 23, 2018)
Cargill Meat Solutions, a Fort Morgan company, is recalling more than 25,000 pounds of ground beef over concerns of possible E. coli contamination.
The ground beef items were produced Aug. 16, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service news release.
Cargill is recalling 10-pound "chubs" of beef, which have been shipped to "warehouses in Colorado and California," according to the USDA. The chubs are typically repackaged and distributed to retailers.
The chub packages are identified as "EXCEL 93/7 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF" with "Use/Frz. By Sep 05" on the label and a "PACK DATE 08/16/2018" on the box
Cargill, which employees about 2,100 workers in its Morgan County beef processing plant about 80 miles northeast of Denver, then notified the food safety and inspection service of the issue.

"There are no known illnesses associated with the product," said Michael Martin, Cargill's director of communications. "We don't know of anyone who has been ill."
Anyone concerned about E. coli poisoning should immediately contact a healthcare provider.

South Africa Bans Import of Non-irradiated Honey; 
By Lloyd Phillips  (August 23, 2018)
South Africa's recent ban on imports of non-irradiated honey from Zambia has been described as a "good thing" by the chairperson of the SA Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO), Mike Miles.

South Africa's recent ban on imports of non-irradiated honey from Zambia has been described as a "good thing" by the chairperson of the SA Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO), Mike Miles.

The ban was implemented following the discovery of a batch of imported of non-irradiated Zambian honey reportedly containing specimens of the American foulbrood (AFB)Paenibacillus larvaethat's deadly to bees.

Miles praised SA's department of agriculture (DAFF) for intercepting the consignment of honey before it could enter South Africa's borders to possibly infect the country's AFB-free wild and commercial hives.

AFB is presently limited mainly to parts of the Western Cape and its immediate surrounds, and strict controls are in place to minimise the risk of it spreading across the rest of South Africa.  DAFF's Plant Health Directorate distributed a notice to SA's bee industry and honey importers informing them of the AFB discovery in the shipment of Zambian honey and of the subsequent ban on further imports of non-irradiated honey from the Southern African country.

"Considering that Paenibacillus larvaewas detected from pure honey imported from Zambia, all consignments of pure honey imported from Zambia shall be subjected to irradiation and all import permits will be withdrawn," said the notice.  "You are advised to contact [the] DAFF office responsible for issuing permits so that new permits can be issued to you with irradiation as a requirement."

A statement issued by Zambia's High Commission in SA (ZHC SA) said the commission was protesting the ban on imports of non-irradiated Zambian honey.
The statement said, its high commissioner, Emmanuel Mwamba, had stated the ban was implemented without their first having followed due procedures and trade regulations.

"Mr Mwamba has urged the authorities in South Africa to immediately reverse the ban on importation of pure honey [from Zambia] until the laid down procedures and verification were done by experts from both countries," said the statement.  Miles told Farmer's WeeklySABIO had long been concerned about the safety of Zambia honey imports "because they are not irradiated due to trade agreements" between Zambia and SA.
"Now we need to ascertain the original source of the bacterium," he continued.
"This can be done. It's a concern if the American foulbrood found in Zambian honey is coming from outside of Zambia."

Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz's head of agribusiness intelligence, said Zambia's concerns regarding the ban on honey imports from that country were "understandable considering that South Africa is the biggest export market for Zambian honey".
It was estimated that South Africa's honey consumption was around 5 000t annually and that domestic honey production stood at approximately 2 000t/year.
Largely as a result of this supply deficit, South Africa imported 4 206t of honey labelled as 'natural honey' in 2017. 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





Food Irradiation Questions and Answers
Food Irradiation Update

FIPA is a chapter of the International Irradiation Association