(`AKRUTI Tech Pack’)
Offered by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
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Preservation of Food & Agricultural Commodities by Radiation Technology

Food security is essential for enhancing economic well being and security of a nation.
A significant amount of agricultural produce is lost due to insect infestation, microbial attack and other biological and physical damages during postharvest handling and storage. Prevention of postharvest losses using appropriate technologies can plug the widening gap between food production and demand. The chemical fumigants used for the control of insect pests, and microbial decontamination of food commodities are being phased out on account of their harmful effects on human health and environment. Radiation processing provides an effective alternative. It is a physical process in which food and agricultural commodities are exposed to controlled doses of radiant energy to achieve desirable effects such as inhibition of sprouting and ripening, and destroying insect pests, parasites, pathogenic and spoilage bacteria. The technology is very effective for elimination of pests, parasites and pathogens. It can be applied to pre-packaged commodities even under frozen conditions.  Radiation brings its effects through direct deposition of energy on the large biomolecules and indirectly through radiolysis of water when free radicals so produced interact with other molecules. Gamma rays from radioisotope cobalt-60 and electron beams or X-rays from machine based radiation sources can be used for processing food commodities.

Major technological benefits that can be achieved by radiation processing of food and agricultural commodities include:

  • Disinfestation of insect pests in stored products
  • Disinfestation of quarantine pests to overcome international trade barriers
  • Delay in ripening and senescence in fruits and vegetables
  • Inhibition of sprouting in tubers, bulbs and rhizomes
  • Destruction of microbes responsible for food spoilage
  • Elimination of parasites and pathogens of public health importance in food
Control samples
Irradiated samples
Normal Chana

Irradiated Chana

Normal Potato

Irradiated Potato

Normal Rice

Irradiated Rice

Normal Wheat and Irradiated Wheat

The wholesomeness and nutritional adequacy of irradiated food has been well established. The technology is endorsed by the World Health Organization, Food & Agriculture Organization, Codex Alimentarius Commission, International Plant Protection Convention, and World Trade Organization. It is also approved by the international and national regulatory authorities including USFDA, FSANZ and FSSAI (PFA). Several reputed professional bodies including American Medical Association, Institute of Food Technologists, and American Nuclear Society have endorsed the utility, safety and benefits of radiation processing of food.

In India radiation processing of food can be undertaken both for export and domestic markets. For export, food could be processed for shelf-life extension, hygienization, and for overcoming quarantine barriers. India is well known for its export of several food commodities. Radiation processing can be used for restructuring costs of bulk commodities in export markets, and for selling value added packaged commodities directly in retail markets. Recently, it has been possible to export famous Indian mango to USA using this technology.  India has one of the world’s largest domestic markets. Huge quantities of cereals, pulses, their products, fruits and vegetables, sea foods, and spices are procured, stored, and distributed throughout the length and breadth of the country. Radiation processing can be used for disinfestation and storage of bulk and consumer packed commodities for supply chain management and retail distribution.

The feasibility of using radiation processing on a commercial scale has been demonstrated through the two technology demonstration units set up by the department of Atomic Energy. A technology demonstration unit, primarily for hygienization of spices, is being operated by the Board of Radiation & Isotope Technology (BRIT) at Vashi, Navi Mumbai since 2001. Another technology demonstration unit named KRUSHAK (Krushi Utpadan Sanrakshan Kendra) has been operational at Lasalgaon near Nashik in Maharashtra since 2003 for low dose applications including sprout control in bulbs and tubers and disinfestation of agricultural commodities for quarantine and storage purposes. The interest of the entrepreneurs in the technology has steadily grown over the years. More than 20 MoUs have been signed for transfer of the technology with the entrepreneurs and BRIT. Even if a fraction of our total food produce is to be processed by radiation, it will require installation of several new facilities.

Irradiated famous Indian mango

For increasing the awareness of benefits of radiation processing in the rural area, consultancy service for irradiation of agro produce in their region without charge is extended to the AKRUTI Tech Pack holders.

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