A besugárzásos élelmiszertartósítás szabályozása az EU-ban és az USA-ban
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Food irradiation is a treatment of food by controlled amounts of ionizing radiation for a specific time to achieve certain desirable objectives. The process cannot increase the normal radioactivity level of the food, regardless of how long the food is exposed to the radiation, or how high energy dose is used. It can prevent the reproduction of food spoiling microorganisms, such as bacteria and moulds, by changing their molecular structure. It can also slow down the maturation of fruits and vegetables by altering the physiological processes of plant tissues. Alongside traditional methods of processing and preserving food, the technology of food irradiation is gaining more attention worldwide. Today, health and safety authorities in over 40 countries, have approved irradiation of over 60 different foods, ranging from spices to boned chicken meat. As of August 1999, over 30 countries and in more 60 irradiation facilities are irradiating food for commercial purposes. Interest is increasing in the process of irradiation because of high food losses from infestation, contamination, and spoilage; mounting concerns over food-borne diseases. The international food trade must meet strict standards. The FAO has estimated that 25% of all food production is lost worldwide after harvesting due to insects, bacteria and rodents. The use of irradiation alone will not solve all the problems of post-harvest food losses, but it can play an important role in reduction of losses and reducing the amount of chemicals used. Several countries, including USA, China, Japan, Hungary and other EU members use irradiation in case of one or more food products to control after harvest food losses. Foodborne diseases means a widespread threat to human health and they are an important cause of reduced economic productivity even in advanced countries. In the United States it was estimated in 1994 by a task force of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) that the number of cases may range from 6.5 million to 33 million annually and that deaths may be as high as 9,000 annually. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service estimates that diseases caused by E. coli O157:H7 due to consumption of raw ground beef result in US $200 million to $440 million annual medical costs and productivity losses. In developing countries, diseases caused by parasites such as Taenia solium and Trichinella spiralis mean a major problem, and together with bacterial foodborne diseases, account for millions of cases per year. The relatively low doses of radiation needed to destroy certain bacteria in food can be useful in controlling foodborne disease. Frozen seafoods and frog legs, dry food ingredients, are irradiated for this purpose in Western Europe. Electron beam irradiation of poultry meat is carried out industrially in France. Spices are being irradiated, instead of being fumigated in many countries. The volume of irradiated spices and dried vegetable seasonings globally has increased significantly in recent years to over 60,000 tonnes. Trade of food products is a major factor in regional and international commerce, and the markets are growing. The inability of countries to satisfy each other’s quarantine and public health regulations is a major barrier of the food trade. For example, not all countries allow importation of chemically treated fruit. Moreover, major importing countries, including the USA and Japan, have banned the use of and the import of products treated with certain fumigants identified as health hazards. In 1996, the USDA issued a new rule to allow importation of fresh fruits and vegetables treated by radiation against fruit flies. The problem is most acute for developing countries whose economies are still largely based on food and agricultural production and the revenues from export. Radiation processing offers these countries an alternative to fumigation and some other treatments.