Spice irradiation is specifically used to process spices, herbs or dry vegetables for eliminating or reducing microbial load, eliminating pathogenic microbes, as well as disinfestation insects. The application of chemical fumigants has been phased out throughout the globe considering its several disadvantages. On the other hand, the radiation processing provides various advantages.
Unlike fumigants, irradiation does not leave any harmful residues on the processed spices and other food products. Additionally, it is a safe mode of processing for both the environment as well as the workers. This cold process of processing foods is highly effective. Radiation processing can assure disinfection but cannot ensure correction of quality deficiencies. The commodities coming from an agricultural origin often get contaminated with insects and microorganisms.
Various factors may affect the biological makeup of spices, such as:
- The nature of material
- Climatic conditions
- Harvesting process
- Transportation methods used
Each of these factors influences the quality as well as the number of spices. Spice irradiation exposes the spices to a small dose of 10 kGy to inactivate storage insects, eliminate bacteria and pathogens to reduce the organic load in the acceptable range of 0-100 colony-forming-units (cfu) /g. This range is much below the safe, acceptable levels by an immensity of 10-100.
Spice irradiation can be performed only on pre-packaged spices, dry vegetables and herbs. To avoid any recontamination or re-infestation post processing, the products must be packed and sealed properly. Packaging material must be impervious to insect pests to prevent re-infestation. The commodity should be packed in the form of final distribution. Once the adequately packed spices, dry vegetables, and herbs have undergone radiation processing; they can be kept at ambient temperature for as long a period of a year or even more. Spice irradiation can be used for processing both ground and whole spices in bulk on condition that they are packed appropriately in lined air-tight packaging.
Treating spices with ionising radiations help in eliminating any microbial contamination. The method effectively eliminates bacteria without leaving any chemical residues. The processed food does not undergo any chemical changes. Additionally, the nutritive quality of food is also least affected by the process of irradiation. Extensive scientific studies validate that the nutritive composition of any processed food product does not change after subject to irradiation. In turn, the destruction of spoilage microbes and pathogens increases the shelf life of spices and other processed food commodities. Depending on the dosage of radiation, effects such as reduced storage losses improved parasitological and microbiological food safety, and extended shelf life can be effectively achieved.
Spice irradiation has been recognised as a mode to reduce post-harvest losses, facilitate trade, and ensure hygienic quality. The irradiation plant manufacturer indulged in the processing of food commodities over the years unanimously agree to the beneficial effects of irradiation. Research in the field of food quality and adulteration also support the fact that irradiation improves shelf-life and hygienic quality of spices.