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Food Irradiation Guides Under Development

“Irradiation is used to control sprouting and ripening and to serve as a quarantine treatment in fresh fruits and other produce, and to inactivate parasites and reduce the incidence of spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms in meats, spices, and other foods,” says chemist Don Derr, Food Safety Consulting Service, Glen Burnie, Md., the chairman of ASTM Subcommittee E10.06 on Food Irradiation Processing and Packaging.

At the June meetings of Committee E10 on Nuclear Technology, the subcommittee discussed standard guides that will promote “good irradiation practice” for many foods.

“Users of these standards fall roughly into two groups; processors of food commodities that could benefit from irradiation, and facilities with interest in irradiating foods,” states Derr, who was responsible for the safety and wholesomeness of domestic and imported meat and poultry during his career as deputy director, Scientific Support, U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. “It is important not to assume that a food processor knows enough about the irradiation process and, equally, that an irradiation processor knows enough about the foods to be processed. These standard guides provide a common ground of knowledge to form a basis for successful business relationships between the two groups.”

According to Derr, irradiated food has been sold in small quantities since 1990. Irradiated produce such as citrus, tomatoes, onions, and strawberries have been available in small markets in the Midwest and Florida since 1992. Tropical fruits such as mangoes and papayas shipped from Hawaii have been irradiated in the Midwest and sold in small area markets. Later in the decade, small amounts of irradiated poultry surfaced in the marketplace, and this past May, larger quantities of irradiated ground beef became available in about 250 retail markets in the Midwest and in a smaller markets in Florida.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidance requires first generation irradiated foods to be labeled “treated by irradiation” or “treated with radiation,” Derr says.

Present ASTM standards covering food irradiation are:

F 1355, Standard Guide for Irradiation of Fresh Fruits as a Phytosanitary Treatment;

F 1356, Standard Guide for the Irradiation of Fresh and Frozen Red Meats and Poultry to Control Pathogens and Other Microorganisms;

F 1640, Standard Guide for Packaging Materials for Foods to be Irradiated;

F 1736, Standard Guide for Irradiation of Finfish and Shellfish to Control Pathogens and Spoilage Micro-Organisms; and

F 1885, Standard Guide for the Irradiation of Dried Spices, Herbs, and Vegetable Seasonings to Control Pathogens and Other Microorganisms.

F 1640 is being updated. Areas of new standards development are “good irradiation practice” standards for shell eggs and ready-to-eat foods such as produce, meat, and poultry. Additionally, a standardized methodology of dose-setting for foods has been proposed that will be similar to ANSI/ AAMI/ISO 11137, Sterilization of Healthcare Products—Requirements for Validation and Routine Control—Radiation Sterilization, a standard co-developed by the American National Standards Institute, Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, and International Organization for Standardization.

Input is sought from processors of shell eggs and ready-to-eat foods. Stakeholders are invited to join ASTM subcommittee members from the radiation processing industry, government research and regulatory agencies, the food industry, and private sector who meet semi-annually within the continental United States.

For additional technical information, contact Don Derr, 148 Alview Terrace, Glen Burnie, MD 21060-7452 (410/766-9186; fax: 410/766-0540). Committee E10 meets Jan. 21-24, 2001, in Reno, Nev. For meeting or membership details, contact Lisa Drennen, ASTM (610/832-9735). //

Copyright 2000, ASTM