Food Irradiation


    In News

    • The Centre is planning to irradiate onions with Gamma rays before sending them into cold storage on a pilot basis.
      • Irradiation prevents sprouting and thus brings down post-harvest losses.

    What is Food Irradiation?

    • Food irradiation is used in food processing to help ensure food safety. In food irradiation, ionizing radiation uses electricity, x-rays and gamma rays to destroy microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses or insects in food.

    Need for Food Irradiation

    • The seasonal nature of production, long distances between production and consumption centres and rising gap between demand and supply increases the odds of post-harvest losses.
    • The hot and humid climate of a country like India is quite favourable for the growth of  numerous insects and microorganisms that destroy stored crops and cause spoilage of food every year.
    • Post-harvest losses in food and food grains in India is around 40-50 per cent, primarily due to insect infestation, microbiological contamination, physiological changes due to sprouting and ripening, and poor shelf life.
    • Sea-foods, meat and poultry may carry harmful microbes and parasitic organisms that cause illnesses associated with their consumption.

    Advantages of Food Irradiation

    • Food irradiation helps to prevent foodborne illnesses as the organisms responsible for causing foodborne illnesses are eradicated using this process. Due to this, the food shelf life increases, and it can last longer, offering no change in taste or texture.
    • In comparison with heat or chemical treatment, irradiation is considered a more effective and appropriate technology to destroy food borne pathogens.
    • Food Irradiation cannot induce any radioactivity in food and does not leave any harmful or toxic radioactive residues on foods as is the case with chemical fumigants.
    • Treatment is done after final packing so no repacking is required.



    • Radiation processing cannot be applied to all kinds of foods.
    • It cannot destroy already present pesticides and toxins in foods.

    Food Irradiation in India

    • For commercial application of the technology in India, Atomic Energy (Control of Irradiation of Food) Rules were notiied in 1991, and later amended in 1996. In 2012, a new amendment resulted in the notiication of the current Atomic Energy (Radiation Processing of Food and Allied Products) Rules, 2012. 
    • Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is the regulatory authority in India for enforcing these rules.
    • As per Food Safety Standards (Food Product Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011, the irradiated products are labelled and can be identiied with the ‘Radura’ logo.

    Source: LM