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Thursday, March 17, 2011

FROM THE MANGO VAULT ~ 2009

Irradiation lets manila mangoes into U.S.

By Ashley Bentley

Published on 03/27/2009 12:00AM

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Manila mangoes are similar to ataulfos in that they are a green mango that turns to yellow, and are known for their excellent eating quality, says Pascual Castrellon, chief operating officer of Paradise Exotic Fruits LLC, San Antonio.

Courtesy Paradise Exotic Fruits LLC

(March 27, 1:30 p.m.) A new irradiation facility in Mexico plans to export a mango variety to the U.S. — manila — for the first time in April.

The company also plans to send other varieties, including ataulfo, tommy atkins and haden.

“This is the best quality mango we have here or in the world, but it has very thin skin that can’t resist the hot water treatment,” said César Moreno, general manager of the irradiation facility, Sterigenics Gamma Mexico. “It has never been in the states, and it will be in the next months.”

Sterigenics International, Oak Brook, Ill., operates Sterigenics Gamma Mexico in Tepeji del Rio, Hidalgo. The company has been shipping guavas to three U.S. importers since November and in late March was waiting for certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Mexico’s government to pack, treat and ship mangoes, Moreno said.

“When they did the organizational plan in 2006, they covered all products they would be irradiating,” said Melissa O’Dell, public affairs specialist for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “For mangoes, there are just some technical things that need to be done before they start.”


Currently, Mexican mangoes undergo a hot water treatment to kill pests before arriving in the U.S. The USDA allows imports of irradiated mangoes from India and Thailand.

Moreno said in the last three months Sterigenics sent 40 truckloads of irradiated guavas to Paradise Exotic Fruits LLC, San Antonio; F. Diaz LLC, McAllen, Texas; and Tijuana’s Produce Inc., Los Angeles. He plans to export the irradiated mangoes to the same companies, he said.

“We’ll be ready by the end of April for the mangoes,” said Pascual Castrellon, chief operating officer of Paradise Exotic Fruits.

“The manila mango is known around the world,” Castrellon said. “Asia, India and Hispanic cultures are very familiar with it. Once the American public knows about it, they’re going to fall in love with it.”

Manilas are similar to ataulfos in that they are a green mango that turns to yellow, and are known for their excellent eating quality. Ataulfos are more resistant to temperature changes and transport, Castrellon said, which is why they have made their way to the U.S.

Paradise Exotic Fruits also plans to import irradiated criollo mangoes and “baby mangoes,” Castrellon said.

Consumer hesitation?

Irradiated items in the U.S. are required to include “treated with irradiation” or “treated by irradiation” wording, along with the Radura symbol, the international symbol for irradiation.

For many importers, that’s a label they want to avoid.

“We are not a company that’s interested in irradiating our product,” said Chris Ciruli, chief operations officer for Ciruli Bros. LLC, Rio Rico, Ariz. “We’re known for our Champagne (ataulfo) mango with high flavor and high quality, and I don’t think irradiation will give it that. We are heavily invested in the hot water treatment and are going to stay with it.”

Importers also cite concern with consumers’ perception of irradiation.

“I just don’t think a housewife is looking forward to feeding her family irradiated fruit,” said Rick Burkett, salesman for Farmer’s Best International LLC, Nogales, Ariz.

Castrellon said his company had few problems with consumer acceptance when he started importing irradiated guavas.

“We thought it was going to be a factor, but nothing has ever happened,” Castrellon said. “As far as we know, there’s been no negative feedback. They don’t even look at it, they don’t even care. And it’s safe.”