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Making Thai Food Safe and Marketable Worldwide

Technopolis Park, Thailand. Located within a futuristic industrial park on the outskirts of Bangkok, the Thai Irradiation Center (TIC) is buzzing with people and vehicles in the early morning hours. Boxes of spices, surgical gloves, onions, dried papaya, pet food, and a curious locally-made sausage are stacked inside and out.

Thai Food

An uncooked, fermented pork sausage called “Nham” is irradiated to render it safe for consumers at the Thai Irradiation Center near Bangkok.

“Lots of people were consuming Nham and getting intestinal illnesses,” explains Mr. Pravait Keawchoung, the General Manager of the TIC. “With a small exposure to gamma radiation, these sausages are now safe for consumers to eat for weeks.”

The sausages are a delicacy in Thailand made from fermented, uncooked pork and wrapped up in a banana leaf. They are a gastroenterologist’s worst nightmare.

“The potential for bacterial contamination in Nham was so high that we considered it a public health imperative to do something,” explains Paisan Loaharanu of the IAEA Food and Environmental Protection Section. “Irradiation provided us with a safe, clean, and efficient means to render this product safe for Thai consumers.”

The TIC has been sterilising large volumes of Nham and other food and medical products for more than a decade. It was established as a demonstration project with grant support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to the Thai Office of Atomic Energy for Peace (OAEP), which operates the facility.

The strategy has proved successful: several competing irradiation facilities have been established by private operators in the Bangkok metropolitan area.

“The private companies visit us often to learn from our operational experience in irradiating different products,” says Mr. Keawchoung. “We provide them with all sorts of technical assistance for free. That’s how we’re promoting this beneficial technology.”

Thailand is hardly alone. Many developing countries—including Brazil, China, Chile, Mexico, and South Africa are using irradiation to control pathogenic bacteria and parasites in food products. Several large commercial irradiators are under construction in the USA for treating meat products—in particular, poultry and hamburger.

For more information, see the web site of the International Consultative Group on Food Irradiation: www.

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