Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: November 9, 2008
Publication Date: August 1, 2009
Citation: Niemira, B.A., Fan, X. 2009. Irradiation enhances quality and microbial safety of fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. In Fan, X., Niemira, B.A., Doona, C.J., Feeherry, F., Gravani, R.B. editors. Microbial Safety of Fresh Produce. Ames, IA: Blackwell. 10:191-204. Technical Abstract: Foodborne illness (FBI) outbreaks associated with contaminated fruits, vegetables, salads, and juices have risen more than 5-fold in recent decades. Although pre-harvest, post-harvest and supply-chain controls can help to reduce risk, they have not been able to prevent repeated FBI outbreaks and product recalls of tomatoes, leafy greens, melons, sprouts and other fresh produce. It is increasingly recognized that the lack of a broadly applicable antimicrobial process (a “kill step”) is hampering the food safety efforts of the fresh produce industry. An antimicrobial process that has come under increased scrutiny is irradiation. Irradiation is the application of controlled doses of ionizing radiation in the form of electron beams, x-rays or gamma rays. Irradiation is a nonthermal process that kills spoilage organisms and pathogenic bacteria in a variety of fruits and vegetables. This chapter will review the latest research information on the sensory and nutritional quality of irradiated foods, the antimicrobial efficacy of the process, and the means by which irradiation may be optimized in a commercial setting to inactivate pathogens and reduce contamination risks. Also included is information on packaging and consumer acceptance. Finally, the economics of irradiation and the pertinent governing regulations are summarized, and key areas of future research are identified.