PACKING A PUNCH: Blueberries have plenty of fibre, virtually no fat and loads of vitamins.
PACKING A PUNCH: Blueberries have plenty of fibre, virtually no fat and loads of vitamins.

X-Rayed blueberries safe to eat: NSW DPI

BLUEBERRY growers in Northern NSW have declined to comment on newly approved irradiation export treatments, with one producer citing stigma on radiation technology as a reason.

But NSW Department of Industries Research Horticulturalist John Golding, who led the blueberry irradiation research project, says the fifty-year-old technology has "no effect on fruit quality, vitamins, antioxidants or minerals".

"There were some consumer groups who opposed the technology," he said.

"They're entitled to their opinion and they had a chance to have their say.

"There might have been some apprehension that the fruit becomes radioactive but it doesn't."

Dr Golding said "there were issues a long time ago with irradiated cat foods" but this was the result of excessive dosages that no longer existed.

Modern irradiation doses were very low, he said.

Last week, department officials released a statement predicting a 43% increase in the value of NSW's blueberry exports from $140 million to $200 million in 2016-17 thanks to changes in quarantine standards.

Dr Golding said similar irradiation techniques were already approved by authorities in the United States and New Zealand for Australian mangoes and for export of Australian tomatoes to New Zealand.

He said 19 Australian crops were approved for irradiation but it was up to business stakeholders to decide whether or not they wanted to take up the practice.

Quarantine authorities in countries like New Zealand required Australian blueberries to be treated post-harvest before export because of risks posed by the Queensland fruit fly.

Previously, exporters had to keep berries in cold storage for around fourteen days but irradiation is a process that can happen in less than an hour, Mr Golding said.

He said an irradiation plant in Brisbane was conveniently located for growers in northern NSW and provided cool temperatures suitable for blueberries.

"The industry needs market access options, this isn't the only one," he said.

"Some markets don't need any treatment."



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