Food Technology Information Center

Restrictions to the use of fumigants and opportunities for substitution with botanicals and modified atmospheres

Shlomo Navarro*, Jonathan Donahaye, Simcha Finkelman

Food Technology International Consultancy, Ltd., P.O. Box 3300, Beit Yehoshua, 40591, Israel
*Corresponding author e-mail: snavarro@ftic.info

Abstract: Concerns over the adverse effects of fumigant residues in food and the environment have led regulatory agencies to take actions by imposing strict limitations on fumigant registration. Of the long list of fumigants two decades ago, very few remain today. MB has a relatively quick killing effect on insects, but - because of its contribution to stratospheric ozone depletion - has been phased out in developed countries since 2005, and in developing countries phase out will take place by 2015. In contrast, phosphine remains popular, even though insects have developed resistance to it. These restrictions on the use of fumigants have posed new global challenges to the food industry, and have resulted in efforts to register new fumigants, and in the development of new technologies as alternative control methods.

Among the newly considered fumigants are sulfuryl fluoride, carbonyl sulphide, propylene oxide, methyl iodide, ozone, ethyl formate, and hydrogen cyanide. Sulfuryl fluoride seems to emerge as a promising candidate fumigant for disinfesting stored food commodities, food-processing facilities and as a quarantine fumigant. Other registered fumigants suffer from the limitation that they may be useful for treating a particular type of commodity or for application in a specific situation only. The potential use of volatiles of botanical origin shows promise but requires both commercial scale trials and registration procedure before they can be employed in practice. Among the new gaseous application technologies that have successfully replaced fumigants are the manipulation of modified atmospheres (MAs) alone or at high temperatures, and high pressure carbon dioxide that needs to be further explored for specific applications. A recent development is the use of MAs in a low-pressure environment. These niche applications of MAs that have resulted in very promising application treatments with market acceptability, should serve as models for global challenges for new application methods.

Key words: fumigation, methyl bromide alternatives, phosphine, gaseous treatments, botanicals, modified atmospheres.

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