The irradiation of unsaturated fatty acids in foods predominantly results in the formation of alpha and beta unsaturated carbon compounds (Nawar, 1983).

Further reaction, and the addition of oxygen, leads to the formation of a hydroper-oxyl radical.

Then formation of a hydroperoxide:

The hydroperoxides are generally unstable in foods and breakdown to form mainly carbonyl compounds, many of which have low odour thresholds, and contribute to the rancid notes often detected when fat-rich (and particularly unsaturated fat-rich) foods are irradiated (Hammer and Wills, 1979; Wills, 1981). For example, irradiation of whole egg and egg yolk powder resulted in the generation of lipid hydroperoxides (Katusin-Razem et al, 1992). In the absence of air, their formation was limited by available oxygen. Interestingly, destruction of carotenoids was strongly correlated with hydroperoxide formation. Irradiation in the presence of oxygen leads to accelerated autoxidation (Diehl, 1995), but the end products are similar to those found following long storage of unirradiated lipids (Urbain, 1986).

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