Ingredient group turns to testing amidst irradiation fears

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

A manufacturer of food and nutritional ingredients says it is taking a stand against irradiating raw materials to remove harmful microbes with a new in-house testing system for its products.

FutureCeuticals says that it now has capabilities to test raw materials and even finished products that may have been treated with Gamma irradiation to reduce microbial levels in foodstuffs, despite potential safety concerns over the process.

The company says that it has taken the plunge in adopting Photostimulated Luminescence test (PSL) technology into its operations, ahead of most in the industry. The group claims that it expects similar testing methods for irradiation will become the rule rather than the exception for many ingredient manufacturers in the future.

Microbial deterrents

Such a strategy comes amidst recent amendments by the Food and Drug Administration on the use and labeling of Gamma irradiation for food products, supporting claims that it offers safe and effective means of ensuring hygiene.

However, some natural products manufacturers stress concern even over the regulated use of Gamma irradiation for food ingredients.

Customer concerns

John Hunter, vide president of FutureCeuticals, said that the company’s move to adopt the testing was part of attempts to allay fears from some consumers over irradiation, even with the recent regulatory amendments.

“Many consumers are unconvinced that irradiation is safe for food and nutritional supplement,”​ he stated. “They are seeking real food, organic food, natural food that has not been heavily processed and that is free of unnecessary additives.”

Hunter added that ahead of new regulation coming into place by July 2009, the company hopes to ensure that 100 per cent of its products will be tested to ensure its ‘irradiation free’ labels can be confirmed.

Dr Boris Nemzer, head of quality insurance for the company added that the ability to test for residues of irradiation processes therefore would be a major step in meeting customer needs.

"We have observed a number of incoming fruit and vegetable raw materials that have been tested positive for Gamma irradiation treatment and have not been labeled as such,”​ he stated. “In a few cases we even found unlabeled organic raw materials that have tested positive for irradiation."


According to the company, the PSL system can trace in minutes whether a product has been treated with Gamma irradiation. The system is one of a number of testing methods for irradiated products, detecting light that is emitted from minerals that have undergone treatments such as the Gamma process.

Irradiation shift

Trade group the Natural Products Association (NPA) told that while it did not necessarily support industry wide irradiation testing, it saw the strategy as reflecting a growing shift away from irradiation use in the industry.

“We are encouraged to be seeing growing popularity for other treatments such as cold steam and ozone,”​ a spokesperson for the group said.

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