Current and potential applications

Some of the benefits of food irradiation are listed in Table 17.2. Food safety will present great challenges for all involved, including governments and industry (Loaharanu, 2001; Osterholm and Potter, 1997). Globalisation brings food from previously unavailable sources to markets that were previously unreachable. Production conditions are not always acceptable and the rules and regulations that are already in place do not always accord with targets and measurements. This means that attempts at harmonisation are indispensable (Mortarjemi et al, 2001). New hazards are emerging which means that appropriate and coordinated action must be taken. Food security is still the main issue in developing areas, but in industrialised countries the problem of food safety is paramount and the main aspects are hygienic quality and, in particular, microbial contamination (Doyle,

  1. Processing of food by ionising radiation is a perfect tool (Molins et al,
  2. , supplementing traditional methods and in some applications is the only

386 The nutrition handbook for food processors Table 17.2 Some of the benefits of food irradiation

Benefit

  • improves microbiological safety
  • reduces chemical treatment
  • facilitates international trade regarding food safety and quarantine security
  • improves availability and quality of tropical products previously unavailable
  • fresh food remains fresh, raw food remains raw
  • can be applied to solid foods for pasteurisation
  • can be applied in the frozen state; there is no need for warming-up
  • leaves no residue
  • can be applied to pre-packed food procedure available. Irradiation will not be at all effective if it displaces good practices and is most effective if used as the final critical control point in an overall HACCP-concept.

Under the SPS-agreement (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) food safety is the first aspect and quarantine for plant products is the second. Here again, radiation processing is a perfect tool to achieve quarantine and at the same time conserve the environment, thus avoiding the use of ozone-layer depleting chemicals. It contributes to occupational safety by avoiding the use of toxic fumigants. Both uses are spreading, the volume of treated goods is increasing; governments and competent international bodies are developing harmonised protocols. The potential of such applications in the future is high despite the fact that at present world-wide only about 250000 tonne per annum are irradiated (Loaharanu, 2001).

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