Chennai: In order to extend the shelf life and improve the hygiene factor the Indian government should permit irradiation food and vegetables in general and not on a case to case basis.
Food irradiation is the process of exposing food products to controlled application of energy of ionizing radiations such as gamma rays, X-rays and accelerated electrons.
The process kills bacteria and other organisms present in the food thereby preventing food borne disease or food decay.
"The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act is to be amended to allow irradiation of food products on a generic basis," says Dr. Arun K. Sharma, head, Food Technology Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).
In India BARC has the food products irradiation technology and has signed 20 technology transfer Memorandum of Understandings (MOU) and couple of them are likely to start commercial operations soon.
According to him the recent export of Indian mangoes to the US has given a fillip to food product irradiation process.
BARC at its Lasalgaon centre near Nasik in Maharashtra had irradiated 157 ton of mangoes that were exported to the US at Rs.2 per kg.
Presently only limited food items are permitted for irradiation. The products approved are onion, potato, mango, spices, sea food, meat, rice, pulses and few others.
Sharma says radiation doses are three types - low, medium and high.
The low dose application inhibits sprouting in potato and onion, delays ripening of fruits, disinfects stored grains, pulses and destruction of parasites in meat and meat products.
The medium dose will eliminate spoilage microbes in fresh fruits, meat and poultry while higher radiation exposure would sterilize food for special requirements and extend shelf life without refrigeration.
''''The major advantage is that irradiation is a physical non-additive and non heat process causing minimal changes in food.''''
"Even pre-packed food could be irradiated," he adds.
According to him commercial irradiation centres are coming up in Hyderabad, Ahmadnagar and Bangalore with technology provided by BARC. Each irradiation centre would involve an outlay of around Rs7 crore.
Incidentally BARC is content with one time technology transfer fee of Rs10 lakh and will not get any royalty from the licencees.