Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Food irradiation to mitigate hunger incidence

Cebu City (3 May) -- Food irradiation has been identified as an alternative method to preserve food and agricultural products which could address the growing demand of food supply and mitigate hunger incidence in the country.

Food preservation is necessary as availability of food supply is insufficient with post harvest losses alone accounting for 30 to 50 percent in our agricultural supply, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Over 3.4M households in the country or a record high of 19 percent are said to have experienced voluntary hunger at least once over the past three months based on the results of the Social Weather Station 1st quarter survey.

Irradiation is the treatment of food with enormous doses of ionizing radiation in the form of gamma rays. The process destroys and eliminates spoilage-causing bacteria or microorganisms, reduces post-harvest losses and extends shelf-life of food and agricultural commodities.

Irradiation delays ripening of fruits and inhibits the sprouting of vegetables as well as allows food to withstand long distance shipments without spoilage.

Among the commodities that can be treated with radiation include fish (smoked, dried or fresh), frozen shrimp, fresh fruits, rice and corn, meat and meat products and poultry.

The Visayas Chamber of Mango Industry Multi-Purpose Cooperative on the other hand, is lobbying the government for a feasibility study on the installation of an irradiation facility in Cebu. The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) is supporting the construction of these facilities to irradiate mangoes, papayas, bananas and pineapple; this is contained in a fact sheet on food irradiation by a group called Public Citizen.

Food irradiation has gained worldwide recognition and about 50 countries have approved for irradiated food products.

The DA-7 in cooperation with the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute and the BPI are undertaking an advocacy program on food irradiation that includes letting the public understand on the fundamentals of food irradiation and its application as well as its current status. (PIA-Cebu/FCR)

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