Friday, March 16, 2012


Food irradiation process on which enormous investments were made both in terms of valuable money as well as time is still to take off in spite of its proven efficacy and safety to human beings. Every day one is confronted by revelations that enormous amount of food produced in the world is lost irretrievably due to spoilage and other causes and according to one estimate this lost food would feed the entire world. Similarly food poisoning episodes due to contamination with many pathogens like Salmonella, virulent E.coli, Pseudomonas, Listeria etc are continuing posing serious safety problems in many countries. Why is that industry is reluctant to use this technology for the welfare of the consumers?. There are several reasons, most important of which is the regulatory authorities' insistence on mentioning irradiation on the label. It is a paradox that GM foods need not be labeled in a country like the US but irradiated foods must label it!  

"A new ISO standard—ISO 14470:2011—provides state-of-the-art requirements for food irradiation, commonly used to improve quality and safety in food processing. According to a press note by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), a developer and publisher of international standards, the standard will benefit manufacturers, irradiation operators, regulators, customers and, ultimately, consumers. The new standard pertains to requirements for the development, validation and routine control of the process of irradiation using ionising radiation for the treatment of food, not only providing requirements, but also guidance for meeting them. The note adds, food irradiation is the process where food is exposed to ionising radiation in order to improve its safety and quality. It is intended to be used only on food that has been produced under good manufacturing practice (GMP) principles. The irradiation of food can be used for different purposes including control of pathogenic microorganisms and parasites, reduction of the number of spoilage microorganisms, inhibition of the sprouting of bulbs, tubers and root crops, extension of product shelf life or phytosanitary treatment.The main objectives of ISO 14470:2011 are - Provide requirements for the irradiation of food consistent with current standards and practices; Provide directions for a technical agreement between the customer and the irradiator operator; and Establish documentation system to support the controls on the food irradiation process". 

The new ISO standard is good but for whom these standards are made is a question that does not have any ready answer. Of course small quantities of food products are irradiated, especially with low doses for some specific purpose whereas pharmaceutical and medical industry uses them extensively. If finalization of ISO standards for food irradiation heralds a new initiative for popularizing the technology, then it is timely. Otherwise it will remain as a sterile exercise with not many takers for it in the near future.


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