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Irradiation: Utilization, Advances, Safety, Acceptance, Future Trends, and a means to Enhance Food Security

Agbaka JI and Ibrahim AN

Adequate preservation of food has been a major objective of man over time. In the course of storage, marketing, and transportation, food and food products have been significantly taunted by pests and microorganisms. This has resulted in a significant loss of foods (15% for cereals, 20% for fish and dairy products, and up to 40% for fruits and vegetables). With the current global pandemic situation, there are possibilities that famine might be inevitable. Therefore, processes capable of long-term preservation of foods and food products should not only be practiced but readily available and acceptable. Irradiation of foods and food products is a measure that needs to be implemented all over the world, especially in the developing countries. Food irradiation is scarcely practiced in Africa, mostly due to the economy and lack of knowledge on the part of the people, hindering its acceptance as a method of food preservation. Common methods of food preservation have been found to deter nutritional and sensorial qualities of foods; however, irradiation not only keeps foods safe for a longer time, but causes little or no effect on the sensorial qualities. Food irradiation is one of a set of processing strategies that via the application of ionization energy, has been used in the preservation of foods and food products, in addition, improves safety. Gamma rays, eBeams, and X-rays have been applied and studied extensively. As a ‘cold’ pasteurization process, the application of irradiation does not compromise flavor, aroma, and color of foods and food products. Since the irradiation source in no time comes in contact with the food material, irradiation does not make foods radioactive. However, gamma and electron beam radiation have been implicated in several studies to affect the chemical and antioxidant profile of several food products, where exposure of mushrooms to 2 kGy gamma radiation lead to a reduction in sugar content while the antioxidant activity of Arenania montana L was significantly decreased. Moreover, as can be found in other processing techniques involving the application of heat, effects caused by irradiation are minimal. The present review tends to improve the knowledge of irradiation of food which has been practiced for decades. Subsequently, provide insights into the advances in irradiation technology, more so, highlights the safety as well as future trends, and create an awareness to facilitate its acceptance, since consumer acceptance tends to be a barrier to overcome.