In 2016, 12,000 tons of irradiated guava were exported from Mexico to the United States to eliminate quarantine pests. (Photo: G. Hallman / IAEA)
What are the optimal radiation doses for disinsecting fresh products and eliminating the risk of introducing new types of invasive pests into importing countries? The new database, created by the IAEA in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), will help regulators and industry representatives to provide the most appropriate answer to this question.
Before fresh agricultural products, namely fruits, vegetables and cut flowers, will be removed from the habitats of insect pests, it must undergo a pest control for their destruction. The most common phytosanitary treatment methods are cold, heat, fumigants and, more often, ionizing radiation. Due to the growing number of restrictions on the use of fumigants, the use of commercial phytosanitary radiation is gradually expanding.
The new International Database on Product Resistance to Irradiation (IDCT) allows sorting and interpretation of technical information presented in scientific literature regarding the quality of vegetables and fruits that have undergone phytosanitary treatment with ionizing radiation. These data can be used to determine the maximum allowable doses of radiation that can withstand various types of fresh produce, including fruits, vegetables, and cut flowers.
The database contains information on 89 types of fresh products, and it is updated with new data. “This information will help users optimize phytosanitary doses, and they will not have to look at hundreds of scientific papers on this topic,” says Guy Hallman, an entomologist from the joint FAO / IAEA Department of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, one of the developers of data.
According to Hallman, compared to other commercial processing methods, exposure has several major advantages. “Each traditional processing method is intended only for certain types of products. For example, fumigation with methyl bromide is effective for processing citrus fruits, grapes, and cut flowers, but it is unacceptable for most tropical fruits, he notes. — On the contrary, fresh fruits and vegetables tolerate radiation treatment better than any other type of commercial phytosanitary treatment. Phytosanitary exposure is an effective and safe method. ”
Despite the recent increase in the use of phytosanitary practices, which is now recognized by more than 60 importing countries, the total number of agricultural products that have been disinsected by irradiation remains quite small. In 2016, around 30,000 metric tons of fresh produce was irradiated around the world, whereas in Mexico alone, 350,000 tons of mango was pest-treated with hot water. According to Hallman, excessively high initial investment costs, strict government regulation, and a general attitude to radiation technology hinder the broader application of the radiation processing method. “Several countries do not accept freshly irradiated products at all,” Hallman notes, “even though this method does not leave any marks on the most processed products.”
Since irradiation is a small, albeit growing, part of the entire spectrum of phytosanitary measures used in the world, it is not so easy to obtain accurate information on the appropriate radiation doses for various types of products. “More and more countries are beginning to realize the benefits of this method and think about its implementation, which is why our database can be very useful,” says Hollman.
The database is an enhanced version of the International Pest Pest Control and Sterilization Database (IDIDAS), which was developed in 2004 and is a global compendium of radiation dose data needed to kill various insect pests and sterilize adult insects using the sterile method insects or immature individuals — eggs, larvae and pupae — by means of disinsecting products by phytosanitary exposure.
The IAEA and FAO not only create and maintain pest control databases through exposure, but also jointly organize the annual Phytosanitary Exposure Forum at Chapman University, California. The purpose of this forum is to deepen knowledge about radiation processing and its wider application to improve world trade and prevent the spread of invasive pests. The experts of the joint FAO / IAEA department organized a meeting on the two mentioned databases within the 7th annual Forum on March 21-22, 2017.
Information by Jeremy Lee, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication
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