New Delhi: The Union government has cleared several commodities under the new Atomic Energy (Radiation Processing of Food & Allied Products) Rules, 2012, in the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011, for preservation through irradiation.
A major facility in the government sector ensuring irradiation of fresh horticultural produce is the KRUSHAK facility at Lasalgaon, Nashik District, Maharashtra State, India. The facility has been used for irradiating mangoes for export to the US since 2007.
The radiation processing plant at Vashi, Navi Mumbai, under the Department of Atomic Energy, has been processing spices and dry ingredients for microbial decontamination since the year 2000.
With the objective of arresting post-harvest losses of horticulture and non-horticulture produce, the Ministry of Food Processing Industries is operating a scheme for cold chains, value addition and preservation infrastructure to grant financial assistance for setting up inter alia irradiation facilities by individuals or groups of entrepreneurs, cooperative societies, self-help groups, etc.
The energy involved in irradiation is not strong enough to cause changes at the atomic level. Since the food is never in contact with a radioactive source, the food cannot become radioactive.
Several extensive reviews of toxicological data by regulatory and health organizations have determined that food irradiated at doses below 10 kGy is safe. In fact, food is safer after being irradiated because the process destroys harmful bacteria that may be present.
Numerous published research studies have tried to identify problems resulting from eating irradiated foods, but failed to disclose any health risks. Many of these studies were long-term, multi-generation feeding studies, involving several species of test animals. A joint study group of FAO/IAEA/WHO in 1997 evaluated data on the wholesomeness of food irradiated with doses above 10 kGy and recommended that food irradiated with any dose to achieve technical objectives is safe and nutritionally adequate. No upper limit, therefore, needs to be imposed as long as the food is irradiated based on prevailing good manufacturing practices.
Among the legislations that govern food irradiation in the country, the Atomic Energy (Control of Irradiation of Food) Rules, 1991, the primary legislation that regulates food irradiation was amended and the notification issued recently in June 2012. A generic class-based approval has been approved for increasing the product range for radiation processing. It will ensure year-long availability of feedstock for irradiation plants and improve their economic viability.
Irradiation of food is also governed by the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and the regulations issued under it.