Food irradiation is the process of exposing foodstuffs to ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is energy that can be transmitted without direct contact (radiation) capable of freeing electrons from their atomic bonds (ionization) in the targeted food. This treatment is used to preserve, reduce the risk of foodborne illness, prevent the spread of invasive pests, and delay or eliminate sprouting or ripening. Irradiated food does not become radioactive. The radiation can be emitted by a radioactive substance or generated electrically.
What is the radiation processing of food?
Radiation processing of food involves the controlled application of energy from ionizing radiations such as gamma rays, electrons, and X-rays for food preservation. Gamma rays and X-rays are short wavelength radiations of the electromagnetic spectrum which includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible and ultraviolet light. Gamma rays are emitted by radioisotopes such as Cobalt-60 and Caesium-137 while electrons and X-rays are generated by machines using electricity.
How does irradiation work?
Irradiation works by disrupting the biological processes that lead to decay. In their interaction with water and other molecules that make up food and living organisms, radiation energy is absorbed by the molecules they contact. The reactions with the DNA cause the death of microorganisms and insects and impair the ability of potato and onion to sprout.
Radiation processing of food is carried out inside an irradiation chamber.
What are the advantages of radiation processing of food?
Irradiation is a cold process and can be used to pasteurize and sterilize foods without causing changes in freshness and texture of food, unlike heat. Unlike chemical fumigants, irradiation does not leave any harmful toxic residues in food and is more effective. It is efficient and can be used to treat prepacked commodities.
How is the irradiation process controlled to ensure that foods are properly treated?
Laws and regulations enacted by Atomic Energy Regulatory Board govern operations of irradiators used to process non-food products, such as medical supplies. At the international level, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have laid down standards for good manufacturing practices (GMP) and good irradiation practices (GIP) for a number of foods. They cover all aspects of treatment, handling, storage and distribution of food. The guidelines emphasize that, as with all food preservation techniques, effective quality control systems need to be installed and adequately monitored at critical control points at the irradiation facility.
What is the status of the technology of radiation processing of foods in India?
In 1994 Government of India approved irradiation of onion, potato, and spices for internal marketing and consumption. There is a small pilot scale Food Package Irradiator at
1.Food Technology Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, which can treat up to 500 kg of onion and potato per hour. The Department of Atomic Energy is constructing two demonstration facilities for food irradiation.
2. Vashi, Navi Mumbai: -A facility for technology demonstration purpose will be soon commissioned for irradiation of spices at Vashi, Navi Mumbai.
3. Lasalgaon: -Another demonstration facility for irradiation of potato and onion is being set up at Lasalgaon in Nashik District.
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