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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT OF QUARANTINE ALTERNATIVES FOR SUBTROPICAL FRUIT AND VEGETABLE PESTS Title: The pros and cons of using irradiation for phytosanitary treatments

Authors
item Cannon, Raymond -
item Hallman, Guy
item Blackburn, Carl -

Submitted to: Outlooks on Pest Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 14, 2011
Publication Date: February 15, 2012
Citation: Cannon, R., Hallman, G.J., Blackburn, C. 2012. The pros and cons of using irradiation for phytosanitary treatments. Outlooks on Pest Management. 22:1-7.

Interpretive Summary: One form of food irradiation that is increasing in use is irradiation of fresh fruits and vegetables to eliminate quarantine pests, such as fruit flies. But the process is not being used or promoted in the European Union, although under the current regulatory framework it is possible for imported fruits and vegetables to be irradiated to prevent the spread of quarantine pests. The irradiation system must rely on robust certification to demonstrate that irradiation treatments have been carried out adequately. An advantage of irradiation over other treatments is that it may be applied to produce that is packed and stacked on pallets, reducing post-treatment handling costs and potential damage to quality. It is the most broadly tolerated commercial treatment for fresh fruits and vegetables. It enables the export of fruits and vegetables that have not been exported before for lack of an efficacious treatment that the commodities tolerated. Although irradiation can be applied fairly rapidly, in practice it is slowed because of the logistics of moving produce grown in a broad production area through regional facilities. One disadvantage is that because of high capital costs facilities will not always be located near production areas. Another disadvantage of irradiation is that it is not accepted by the organic industry. Proponents of food irradiation suggest that it may be approaching a point at which industry will adopt irradiation more widely, e.g. for food sterilization, pasteurization, and quarantine treatments. Critics of irradiation quarantine treatments point to the difficulty of dealing with the possibility that live (although sterile) quarantine pests may be detected in importing countries and the inspectors will be uneasy accepting that situation.

Technical Abstract: Irradiation is increasingly being used as a phytosanitary treatment in Asia, Australia and the Americas, but the process is not being used or promoted in the European Union. However, under the current regulatory framework it is possible for food commodities irradiated to prevent the spread of alien invasive pests to be exported to the European Community. The irradiation system must rely on robust certification to demonstrate that treatments have been carried out adequately. Advantages of phytosanitary irradiation (PI) over other treatments are: It may be applied to commodities that are already packed and stacked on pallets, thus reducing post-treatment handling costs with potential damages to quality. PI is the most broadly tolerated commercial phytosanitary treatment for fresh commodities. PI enables the export of commodities that had not been exported before for lack of an efficacious treatment that the commodities tolerated. Although PI can be applied to commodities fairly rapidly, in practice the operation is slowed because of the logistics of moving a commodity that is produced in a broad horticultural production area through approved facilities. One disadvantage is that because of high capital costs facilities will not always be located in proximity to production areas. Another disadvantage of PI is that it is not accepted by the organic industry. Proponents of food irradiation suggest that it may be approaching a point at which industry will adopt irradiation more widely, e.g. for food sterilization, pasteurization, and phytosanitary treatments. Critics of PI point to the difficulty of dealing with the possibility that live (albeit sterilized) quarantine pests may be detected during import inspections.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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