Food Irradiation Updates

Published by Ronald F. Eustice on behalf of the Food Irradiation Processing Alliance (FIPA) and the International Irradiation Association (iiA).
November  2012
From the Editor's Desk: 
Canada is in the midst of the largest beef recall in that nation's history. Alberta-based XL Foods, Inc. has been put on the block for a fraction of what the owners paid for the company three years ago. As of October 23, the number of confirmed sick people linked to beef from the XL plant in Alberta has risen to 16. The Canadian government is warning the public, distributors and food service not to consume, sell, or serve various raw beef products that may be contaminated with deadly E. coli O157:H7.
Hundreds have lost their jobs. Despite progress that the beef industry has made to reduce E. coli contamination, the battle is far from over. 

This disaster could have been easily prevented by the use an effective food safety tool: irradiation.  

So where's the irradiated beef? Today Americans are consuming about 15 to 18 million pounds of irradiated ground beef per year, and experiencing a rapidly growing demand for over 35 million pounds of fresh irradiated produce sold annually. In fact for more than a decade, pioneering companies, Omaha Steaks, Schwan's and Wegmans have proudly offered their customers a choice with the added food safety benefit that irradiation offers to already great-tasting beef products and hamburgers.

Meanwhile consumers in Canada wait, denied the choice that American consumers have. Why? Read Ruth Brinston's commentary below to learn more and then encourage regulators and retailers to make irradiated ground beef available.  

Ronald F. Eustice is a food quality & safety assurance consultant based in Minneapolis. He can be reached at: 

Irradiation: the missing...policy
US Government Agencies Helping Exporters Comply With Health & Safety Requirements
USDA to audit Canadian agency, XL Foods in wake of beef recall
Beef recall left Edmonton's XL Foods no choice but to sell: experts
Kroger Stores Stop Selling Sprouts
Salmonella Concerns Spur Dog Treat Recall
Hawaii success story in phytosanitary irradiation due to researcher-industry-regulator partnership
Irradiation: the missing policy; Ruth Brinston, Special to Financial Post (October 9, 2012): 

Alberta beef crisis could have been avoided.
We are in the midst of the largest beef recall in Canadian history with Alberta-based XL Foods, Inc. and the government warning the public, distributors and food service not to consume, sell, or serve various raw beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

Why has the Canadian government not approved the irradiation of ground beef to allow consumers the choice of buying regular or irradiated ground beef?
In March 1998 the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) submitted a petition to Health Canada and according to a 2000 press release it was very optimistic that approval would happen in a timely fashion. This was a reasonable expectation by the Association because in 1997 on the basis of extensive scientific studies and the expert opinions in the United States, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the irradiation of red meat for the control of food borne pathogens. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) which is responsible for ensuring that meat products are safe, wholesome and properly labelled published its ruling in 1999.

Ruth Brinston is an Ottawa-based food health consultant.
Read more here....  

Irrational fear of irradiation robs us of weapon in meat crisis; Edmonton Journal; Letter to the Editor by Fil Fraser; (October 10, 2012): 

In the wake of questions about the safety of our meat supply, we need to re-examine food irradiation.
Re: "Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to assess XL foods plant; E. coli case in B.C. confirmed," the Journal, Oct. 9. The process, used in many countries to extend the useful life of crops and other foods, is a Canadian invention. The technology was developed at Nordion International, the commercial products division of Atomic Energy of Canada, under the leadership of my late brother, Francis (Frank) Fraser. Read more here...

More articles on the recall... 

USDA to audit Canadian agency, XL Foods in wake of beef recall;; by Chris Scott (October 15, 2012):

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture officials will visit the Canadian agency responsible for protecting that nation's food supply, a trip that will include a visit to the XL Foods plant in Alberta that's at the center of a massive beef recall over E. coli contamination.

WASHINGTON, DC: The Oct. 22 USDA audit of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will be the first in three years and could play a role in whether XL Foods will be able to resume meat exports to U.S. retailers if the plant in question receives a new operating license. A CFIA spokesman says the audit had been planned before the recall began last month and was not linked to the recall, although a USDA sign-off on XL Foods meeting export requirements could affect its future dealings with the estimated 23 U.S. grocery chains across 30 states that it currently serves.

Beef recall left Edmonton's XL Foods no choice but to sell: experts;By Marty Klinkenberg, Edmonton Journal (October 18, 2012).

The threat to Canada's beef industry from E. coli was underscored this week when one of its biggest players was toppled in the wake of the largest meat recall in the nation's history.

EDMONTON, ALBERTA: With its losses mounting, XL Foods of Edmonton announced plans October 17 to sell its slaughterhouse in Brooks and other assets to a multinational giant for $45 million less than it paid just three years ago.

As part of the $100-million agreement, JBS USA has taken immediate control of the facility that was shut down by federal regulators on Sept. 27 due to contamination with E. coli. In addition, the company has an option to buy beef packing plants in Calgary, Nebraska and Idaho, as well as a feedlot in Brooks and adjacent farmland.


Kroger Stores Stop Selling Sprouts; BarfBlog (October 19, 2012):

Following Wal-Mart a year ago and numerous food service firms years ago, The Kroger Co. - a supermarket chain that operates a huge number of stores, announced its decision to no longer sell sprouts due to its potential food safety risk.
"After a thorough, science-based review, we have decided to voluntarily discontinue selling fresh sprouts," said Payton Pruett, Kroger's vice president of food safety. "Testing and sanitizing by the growers and safe food handling by the consumer are the critical steps to protect against foodborne illness. Sprouts present a unique challenge because pathogens may reside inside of the seeds where they cannot be reached by the currently available processing interventions. Out of an abundance of caution, the Kroger Family of Stores will no longer sell fresh sprouts or procure other foods that are produced on the same equipment as sprouts."
Pruett added that the company is open to revisiting this policy when new technologies and practices show that farmers can consistently produce sprout seeds that do not internalize pathogens, and when sprout processing environments can be enhanced for safety and cleanliness.
Deliveries of sprouts into Kroger distribution centers and stores will be discontinued on October 22, 2012.
Kroger employs more than 339,000 associates who serve customers in 2,425 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith's.
After the German E. coli O104 outbreak that killed 53 people last year and sickened over 4,000, along with the ridiculous public statements and blatant disregard for public safety taken by sandwich artist Jimmy John's in the U.S., we reviewed the sprout-related literature and concluded:
* raw sprouts are a well-documented source of foodborne illness;
* risk communication about raw sprouts has been inconsistent; and,
* continued outbreaks question effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance.
We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at
Read more here...

Salmonella Concerns Spur Dog Treat Recall; Associated Press (October 14, 2012):

TRENTON, NEW JERSEY -- A pet food company is voluntarily recalling dog treats that could be contaminated with salmonella.
Nature's Recipe announced the recall of a limited supply of its "Nature's Recipe Oven Baked Biscuits with Real Chicken," which were manufactured at its plant in Topeka, Kan., and distributed nationally - primarily through pet specialty retailers.
The company says the product has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella, which can affect animals eating the products and pose a risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products.
Nature's Recipe officials say no pet or human illnesses have been reported, but suggest that pet owners monitor themselves and their dogs for signs of salmonella and seek medical care if symptoms worsen.
The company says the recall is precautionary, and advises consumers who bought the recalled treats to discard them immediately.
The recalled treats were sold in 19-ounce stand-up resealable pouches. The products included in the recall are marked with the Lot Codes 2199TP or 2200TP and a UPC Code of 30521 51549. The pouches also have a "Best If Used By Date" stamp of "10 11 13" and "10 12 13." Read more here... 
Hawaii success story in phytosanitary irradiation due to researcher-industry-regulator partnership; (May 15, 2012):

HONOLULU: Hawaii is a pioneer in the use of phytosanitary irradiation. Irradiation is an approved treatment to control quarantine insect pests in 17 fruits and 7 vegetables for export from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland. Since 2000, the commercial x-ray irradiation facility, Hawaii Pride LLC,on the Big Island has been shipping tropical fruits and vegetables such as papaya, mango, banana, dragon fruit, lychee, longan, rambutan and sweet potato to the U.S. mainland using irradiation. Hawaiian purple sweet potato is the highest volume product with annual exports of more than 12 million lbs (5,500 tonnes). A second commercial irradiator, Pa'ina Hawaii, is operating on the island of Oahu near Honolulu, and will facilitate treatment and export of an even wider variety of agricultural produce from the islands. The Pa'ina facility is operational and the staff are currently going though their internal training including dosimetery and preparing for APHIS certification.
The advent of generic radiation treatments for tephritid fruit flies (150
Gy) and other insects (400 Gy), developed by and first used in Hawaii, has accelerated commodity export approvals and facilitated adoption by foreign trading partners. India, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico and South Africa have followed Hawaii's lead and are exporting fruit to the U.S. using irradiation, and Australia is exporting irradiated fruit to New Zealand. Current impediments to wider adoption include the labelling requirement, the 1 kGy limit for fresh horticultural products, and non-acceptance of phytosanitary irradiation in Japan and the European Union. At the center of the Hawaii success story is a model partnership between researchers, industry and regulators.
Read more here...

"Phytosanitary irradiation of fresh tropical commodities in Hawaii: Generic treatments, commercial adoption, and current issues", Peter Follett and Eric Weinert 

Radiation Physics and Chemistry 81(8): 1064-1067.
Food Irradiation Update is being sent to you by Ronald F. Eustice on behalf of the Food Irradiation Processing Alliance (FIPA) and the International Irradiation Association (iiA).
Ronald F. Eustice
Minneapolis, MN

For more information on food irradiation visit
Remember: Food irradiation is a cold pasteurization process that will do for ground meats, produce, and other foods what thermal pasteurization did for milk decades ago.
Ronald F.  Eustice
FOOD IRRADIATION: A GUIDE FOR CONSUMERS, POLICYMAKERS AND THE MEDIA published by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) can be downloaded at Food Irradiation Book
IRRADIATED FOODS; published by the American Council on Science & Health Provides Science- provides science-based Information on food irradiation. The booklet can be downloaded at:IRRADIATED FOODS
Food Irradiation Principles and Applications
is an excellent source of information about food irradiation. For information go to:
Food Irradiation: Principles & Applications
FOOD IRRADIATION: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS is an excellent source of information on food irradiation.FOOD IRRADIATION: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS




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