Importers could have an additional option for phytosanitary treatment of fresh produce this spring at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, easing logistics and decreasing costs, particularly for mangoes from Pakistan.
Now many mangoes from Pakistan are routed from their port of entry to the Sadex Corp. facility in Sioux City, Iowa, for irradiation before they can be distributed across the U.S.
Frank Benso, president of Gateway America, said with the installation of a Genesis II cobalt-60 irradiation machine at Gulfport importers will be able to save time and money. The project was recently completed, and Benso said he is working on final certification from the Animal and Plant Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Courtesy Gray*StarDesigned specifically for food irradiation, the Genesis II machine uses constant volume variable pressure underwater bells (stainless steel boxes) that can hold product that is 48 inches wide by 24 inches thick and 48 inches high. The sealed bells keep product dry while it is lowered into an underground pool for phytosanitary and food safety treatment. “We will be able to accept air cargo, ocean freight and (over-the-road) shipments,” Benso said Feb. 11. “We plan to submit the certification paperwork to APHIS this week.”
Once that documentation reaches APHIS officials, the Gulfport facility could be certified in 90 days or less, said Tanya Espinosa, APHIS spokeswoman. The review will include an on-site inspection. The agency OK’d the placement of the facility at Gulfport last year, but additional certification is required for the actual equipment.
William Watson, executive director of the National Mango Board, Orlando, Fla., said the organization welcomes any additional treatment facilities to meet the phytosanitary requirements for imported mangoes.
“We’ve all been eating irradiated food for years,” Watson said. “A new facility in Gulfport would be a great option.”
Benso said in addition to providing phytosanitary services for imported produce, the Gateway America facility will provide food safety treatments for domestic and international produce. He noted that irradiation not only kills pests that APHIS is concerned about, but it also kills pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria.
“I see domestic applications for food safety measures equal to if not stronger than our phytosanitary services ultimately,” Benso said. “Irradiation also kills decay bacteria, so shelf life is extended.”
Along with irradiation services, Benso said the Gateway America facility at Gulfport has 20,000 square feet of refrigerated storage space and 20,000 square feet of dry storage space. He left room to install a second Genesis II irradiation machine.
Benso is also in the initial planning stages to build irradiation facilities on the West Coast, in New England and at other locations around the U.S. He plans to use Genesis II machines from Gray*Star Inc., Mount Arlington, N.J.