Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Food Irradiation in the Philippines

Food irradiation is an accepted concept worldwide. Its implications mean for us reduced possibility of microbiological infection as well as extended shelf life for food. There have been many studies made to support this fact (see IAEA primer in PDF format here.

For the consumer, the barrier of seasonal fruits and vegetables that limits choices, availability and can often mean increased prices at certain times of the year can be reduced or shattered as shelf life can be increased and food be made available year round.

Food normally only produced in certain counties can also be made available to many others, simply because food irradiation offers to sterilize the produce or the product. The Philippines' mango, probably the sweetest in the world could then be allowed in North America for example as fruit flies associated with it can pass through stringent requirements set by the United States.

Food Irradiation is also used in meat and poultry products. Salmonella--- deadly, can be killed through the modern miracle of gamma irradiation. Two Hundred (200) School in the United States have signed up to use irradiated meat in their school lunch programs.

Are there detractors in the use of Food Irradiation? In the 1960s, the USFDA rescinded because of carcinogens created in its process.

The Philippines has not a single irradiation facility while its neighbors in the region have successfully deployed at least one. The reason of course is plain old simple money. Though it is not what you think. It is not because no one in the country can afford it, contrary there is private enterprise money that could be spent for it rather, no one would dare risk going into this enterprise.

For many years, endeavors from various groups have been pushing for one. But no one has answered a fact for would be entrepreneurs and investors in the Philippines: will we make money out of it? Numbers and statistics may not yet prove it but the simple gut feel is that it would make lots of money. But who with enough resources would dare risk millions of dollars in such an enterprise?

Another manta--- a stumbling block in the country is its increasing reliance on government funded enterprise. Kennedy's words though for when he spoke them were for American ears, universally hold true but the Filipino has not learned that truth and the wisdom of it. The Filipino has always chosen to ask what his country can do for him.

Until such time as entrepreneurs and investors be provided proof of the viability of such enterprise or that moment when someone or a group or organization is willing to risk and gamble a few million dollars on gamma irradiation can such a facility been seen in the Philippines.

Food Irradiation will be an important step in expanding export in the Philippines and increase domestic availability of safe produce and meat and poultry products.

other sources:
Food Irradiation: A Global Safety Tool

or visit the IAEA website for greater information.