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Furan caused by irradiation in freshly cut fruits and vegetables not extensive.

Furan, which is possibly carcinogenic, usually appears in products that have been thermally processed. We've learned from other scientific endeavors that ionizing radiation can induce the formation of furan in solutions of simple sugars and ascorbic acid.

USDA-ARS scientists examined whether furan can be induced by irradiation in common freshly cut fruits and vegetables, which vary widely in their sugar and ascorbic acid content. They also wanted to determine that, if produced, what levels of furan might be found in irradiated produce. They have found that a high amount of sugars and a low pH are needed for the formation of furan in freshly cut produce.

In experiments, 19 freshly cut fruits and vegetables were irradiated to 5 kGy at 4 C. The scientists analyzed furan from the irradiated samples, using solid phase microextraction and gas chromatography-mass selective detection techniques.

The formation of furan was correlated with the pH, sugar content, titratable acidity and ascorbic acid content of the produce. Results showed that almost all of the tested fruits and vegetables, when irradiated, produced non-detectable levels, or less than 1 nanogram (ng) per gram, of furan. Actually, irradiation induced low ng-per-gram levels of furan only in grape and pineapple.

The ARS researchers also wanted to see if the antibrowning agent calcium ascorbate would cause furan to develop. Dipping apple slices into calcium ascorbate before they were irradiated did not increase the potential for furan formation.

The pH and the amount of simple sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables did play a role in furan formation. Low levels of furan were induced by irradiation only in those fruits that had a high amount of simple sugars and a low pH.

Considering the low levels of furan detected in irradiated fresh produce, irradiation-induced furan is unlikely to be a concern in these products.

Further information. Xuetong Fan, USDA-ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Residue Chemistry and Predictive Microbiology Research, Room 0024, 600 E. Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, PA, 19038; phone: 215-836-3785; fax: 215-233-6581; email:

Many fruits and vegetables are rich in sugars and ascorbic acid. However, we are not sure whether furan is induced by irradiation specifically in fresh produce.

Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.

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Author:Fan, Xuetong
Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Date:Feb 1, 2019
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