of Article: http://foodbizdaily.com/articles/28648-salmonella-free-food-through-irradiation-philippines.aspx
posted on Monday, April 13, 2009 4:35
April 13 2009 (FoodBizDaily) - Of late, in the news, some pistachio
and peanut-butter brands have been blacklisted as being contaminated with
Salmonella. First, it was reported that some US peanut-butter
brands were tainted. After a while, reports of samples from two of the
local brands as being contaminated came in. At present, the news is that
it’s pistachio nuts, primarily from the US, that have the contamination;
however, as a precautionary measure, there was voluntary recalling of the
majority of the brands from the market.
According to reports by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), many
of the commonly occurring food-borne illnesses are often caused by the
Salmonella bacteria; this report is given in the USDA’s website fact
sheet. It’s imperative that we adopt a complete farm-to-table approach to
food safety if we are hoping to bring down Salmonella infection, or
salmonellosis, as it is termed. Farmers, food industry, food inspectors,
retailers, food-service workers, and consumers are all critical links in
the chain of food-safety.
More than 2,300 serotypes of bacteria make up the Salmonella family.
These serotypes are one-celled organisms and are too tiny to be seen by
the naked eye, that is, without a microscope. Of these, the Salmonella
Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium are the two types that cause about
half of all human infections; these two are also the most common types
found in the United States.
It’s the intestinal tract of human beings and other animals, birds
included, that forms the home of Salmonella. Transmission to human beings
normally occurs through the consumption of food contaminated with animal
feces. Salmonella is heat-sensitive, and, therefore, would be able to
survive if present in raw meat and poultry if the product is undercooked,
or not cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature, according to the
Cross-contamination is another way in which salmonellosis can be
caused by the bacteria. This occurs when Salmonella gets transmitted by
direct contact of ready-to-eat foods, such as salads, with juices from
raw meat or poultry.The Salmonella bacteria have been found to be causing
illnesses for more than a century now. It was Dr Daniel E. Salmon, an
American scientist, who discovered the bacteria.
The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) suggests the use of
irradiation as one of the effective interventions to save food from
contamination by the Salmonella bacteria.
Zenaida de Guzman, who heads PNRI’s biomedical research section and
is the project leader of food-irradiation research and development
project, is of the opinion that in combination with Good Manufacturing
Practices and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, irradiation
should be used as a means to eliminate pathogenic microbes in food items.
“We want the public to know that we use this technology [irradiation]
to eliminate microbes, such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria in food,”
the BusinessMirror reported as de Guzman stating to the magazine in an
De Guzman, however, was quick to add that it would not be possible
any more for the PNRI to irradiate the pistachio and the peanut butter
which were, in recent times, found to be contaminated or still suspected
to be so with Salmonella.
She clarified further that it’s only raw agricultural stuff that can
be irradiated, such as the raw pistachio or the raw peanut in the peanut
butter. The finished products have already gone through an extensive
process, right from planting to harvesting, and then drying, processing,
and finally transporting; contamination might have taken place at any or
all of these processes, or it could be that the toxins have already been
“Agricultural raw materials have many sources of microbial
contamination, including water,” she pointed out. In addition, she said,
there are some protocols that have to be followed during food irradiation
These include irradiation of the raw food materials immediately after the
drying process which follows the harvest; this is to make sure that the
growth of any more microbes is prevented. She added that in the event
that the food material has a large amount of microbes present in it,
there would be a need for a bigger dose of irradiation, which may have an
effect on the quality, color, or taste of the produce.
However, de Guzman was of the opinion that Filipino food
manufacturers should ensure that their products are free from bacteria
that cause disease by seriously considering irradiation as the solution.
According to a PNRI flyer, irradiation is a process that makes use of
high-energy ionizing radiation to minimize post-harvest losses, disinfest
agricultural commodities including fresh fruits, prolong the shelf life
of food and agricultural products, such as vegetables, fruits, fish, seafood,
meat, and poultry, and decrease microbes that cause loss by spoilage and
do away with pathogenic microbes.
Irradiation uses doses from 300 Gray (Gy) to 1,000 Gy, depending on
the food product that has to be irradiated. Because irradiation leaves no
radioactive residue on the product, the final product is safe for human
and animal consumption, clarified de Guzman. "It is like putting the
product under x-ray,” she said.
The PNRI’s set up its irradiation facility on a pilot-scale basis in
the year 1984; later, in 2008, PNRI raised it to semicommercial scale.
The facility is able to handle 2 tons of products per load. Dehydrated
vegetables and spices, such as ground white and black peppers, powders
like turmeric, cayenne, garlic, onion, ginger, chives, tamarind, and
other condiments are irradiated at PNRI’s facility.
An increasing quantity of herbal products, such as malunggay and
ampalaya powder, is being irradiated at the PNRI, added de Guzman. As
also are frozen fruits for export, which are used for the making of ice
In the PNRI facility, irradiation is also done to fresh garlic and onions
in order to hold back sprouts. The facility also irradiates medical
equipment, such as cotton, syringes, tubings, gauze, catheters, and
orthopedic implants, for the purpose of sterilization.
In foreign countries, 80 percent make use of irradiation for
sterilization, noted de Guzman. Even pet foods undergo irradiation in the
Patties made for hot dogs, hamburgers, or even frozen chicken could
also be subjected to irradiation.
Following a three-year study, it was confirmed that the whole of the
Philippines was free of seed weevil. De Guzman announced that this could
mean that soon the country may be exporting mango to the US. Already,
Luzon and Visayas have been found to be free from seed weevil. A similar
study was conducted in the Mindanao situation, the results of which are
expected this year.
All the same, the mangoes meant for export to the United States will
still be subjected to irradiation as a precautionary measure against
fruit flies.Another prospective export opportunity is with China, de
Guzman informed, as that country has shown interest in irradiated mangoes
from the Philippines and the possible importation.
FoodBizDaily.com - Staff writer