A series of packaging and processing requirements, designed to manage food irradiation processes, have been outlined in a new international standard - with the aim of ensuring food quality and safety.
The International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) standard 14470:2011, which covers the use of radionuclides, electron beams and X-ray generators in food processing, not only provides requirements, but also a set of guidelines in relation to issues such as contamination, suitable packaging and facility design.
Food irradiation, the process where food is exposed to ionising radiation in order to improve its safety and quality, is used in many counties at some stage of food processing.
According to the standard, the process should be incorporated as part of a food safety management system when applicable, as it can control pathogenic micro-organisms, reduce spoilage micro-organisms while extending the shelf-life of a product.
Irradiation facilities typically consist of an irradiator, temperature controlled storage zones for irradiated and non-irradiated products, conveyor system and safety systems.
The design of irradiation facilities shall also be specified under the guidelines.
“In order to prevent contamination and cross-contamination, necessary measures shall be taken to avoid direct or indirect contact of the food with potential sources of contamination,” said the standard.
“The irradiation facilities shall be designed to irradiate food in accordance with irradiation process specifications and regulatory requirements.”
The product being irradiated should also be defined.
“The food shall be packaged in suitable materials for each type of product and for their use in the irradiation process,” the standard added.
“When appropriate, these shall provide an effective barrier in order to avoid contamination or infestation after irradiation.”
Any changes to the product, its presentation or its packaging as a result of irradiation should be documented and an assessment made on the appropriateness of the process, the document added.
Under the standard appropriate methods for monitoring, measuring and analysing the process should also be applied by the irradiator operator.
Safety and quality ‘addressed’
The standard will provide requirements for food irradiation that are consistent with current standards and practices, including HACCP.
“The irradiation of food is a critical control point (CCP) of a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) programme, contributing to the minimisation of risks from the transmission of pathogenic micro-organisms to consumers,” the ISO document added.
“The requirements given in this International Standard are the minimum necessary to control the food irradiation process.”