The Department of Agriculture’s Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) is eyeing the establishment of the country’s first commercial irradiation technology facility as a postharvest measure for the country’s food and farming sector.

“The technology of food irradiation has been practiced since the 1950s but only in recent years has it become more widely used. The United States government even approved importation of irradiated fruits and vegetables in 2002,” PhilMech Executive Director Rex L. Bingabing said.

He added that 50 countries accept irradiated foods while another 32 countries use irradiation to treat a wide variety of food products and ingredients. In Asia, food irradiation technology is now widely adopted, a PhilMech research showed. Thailand, for instance, has four irradiation facilities that treat mango, mangosteen, pineapple, rambutan, lychee, and longan which are exported to the United States. The other countries that operate food irradiation facilities are Pakistan, Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. China built its first food irradiation facility in 1987 and now has more than 78 such facilities, most of which were established and managed by private companies.

The agency believes that irradiation technology can be used for the country’s top food product exports, like mango, pineapple and banana. “Irradiation technology can address a wide range of issues related to the food sanitary standards of many countries, like pests and pathogens. Also, irradiated foods have a longer shelflife,” Bingabing said.

PhilMech intends to tap the expertise and facilities of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). PNRI operates a semi-commercial Cobalt-60 irradiation facility that is being used for food irradiation, and medical products sterilization upon special request from mostly private firms.

The facility is also intended for research purposes like crop and livestock improvement, among others. “The research of PNRI has shown that irradiation is an effective means to preserve the quality, increase shelflife and prevent insect infestation and microbial infection of food and agricultural commodities,” a PhilMech paper on the matter Besides the PNRI, PhilMech will collaborate with the Department of Trade and Industry-Bureau of Export Trade Promotion, University of the Philippines Los Banos-Postharvest Horticulture Training and Research Center, Bureau of Plant Industry, Bureau of Agriculture and Fishery Products Standards, Agriculture and Marketing Assistance Service, Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries, and the National Food Authority.

Bingabing projected that once the irradiation facility is established and starts commercial operations, the private sector will start showing interest toward the technology and eventually adopt it.

For more information, visit PhilMech.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s August 2014 issue. No author was credited.