FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) under the administration of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), is the lead agency that undertakes various research and development (R&D) activities on food irradiation and safe uses of nuclear energy in the Philippines. PNRI experts have assured the consumers that irradiated foods are wholesome and safe to eat. A join expert committee on food irradiation composed of representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded that the irradiation of food up to an average close of 10 kilogray (KGy) causes no health hazards and guarantees no nutritional or microbial problems.
In the Philippines, forty-five (45) tons of spice and dehydrated vegetables were treated at the Philipines Nuclear Research Institute. Food irradiation is still in the pilot stage in this country, but fruit irradiation for quarantine processing to export to the US is expected to take place in the near future.
Prospects for commercial utilization of irradiation technology in the Philippines for onions, garlic and spices are promising. Private sector marketing and evaluation of consumer acceptability have confirmed that irradiated onions sell better than non-irradiated onions in supermarkets, due to better quality. Labeling of the commodity as irradiated did not affect consumer response. Marketing of 56 tons of Red Creole onions, 20 tons of Yellow Granex onions and 14 tons of shallots was carried out. This large scale irradiation work confirmed significant increase in yield of good quality bulbs due to the treatment (47% and 69% higher marketable bulbs, if irradiated). A study of the viewpoints of 200 consumers indicated that 67% were unaware of the technology and 85% would not purchase irradiated foods if they knew these were available. After providing information on the technology however, the percentage of the same consumers willing to purchase irradiated food increased to 79%.
An IAEA sponsored feasibility analysis for a commercial food irradiator in the Philippines found the establishment of a facility economically viable. The Philippine-led ASEAN initiative for facilitating the adoption of a harmonized food irradiation regulation for the countries of the organization may lead to the opening of markets for irradiated food commodities in the next millennium. An ASEAN Ad Hoc Working Group on Food Irradiation was formed by the Agriculture Ministers in 1996 and is expected to adopt a draft ASEAN Harmonized Regulation for Food Irradiation. This document formed the basis for the harmonized document on food irradiation regulations adopted in Seoul, Republic of Korea, in April 1998 by member countries of the Regional Cooperative Agreement (RCA) for research, development and training in Nuclear Science and Technology. All countries of the ASEAN except Brunei and Laos, who are not party to the RCA, have given their concurrence to the Seoul document.
In view of the high capital cost for putting up a food irradiation plant resulting from the devaluation of the currency, economic feasibility has become more strongly dependent on the opening of export markets for products for which irradiation offers distinct benefits. The phytosanitary treatment of mangoes by irradiation is an example of a beneficial application for which the opening of markets is key to the commercialization of the process. Local consumer education may need to be continued, but is not as difficult a challenge to face as the opening of export markets. It is encouraging that the volume of irradiated foods treated by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute is increasing every year. In 1996–1997, about 10 tons of spices and dried ingredients were irradiated. The volumes of irradiated onions also increased from 6 tons in 1995 to about 75 tons in 1997 and 90 tons in 1998.
Consumer acceptance and market development of irradiated food in Asia and the Pacific.