Institute of Food and Radiation Biology

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Institute of Food and Radiation Biology (IFRB) an institute under the jurisdiction of the bangladesh atomic energy commission (BAEC). In the early sixties, before the establishment of the commission, research activity in food irradiation, pest control, sterilisation of medical supplies, etc was initiated at the atomic energy centre, Dhaka (AECD). Approval for establishment of the Irradiation and Pest Control Research Institute (IPCORI) was given in 1969. However, it came into existence in 1974 when the Radiobiology division of AECD also became a part of this institute and moved to its new site at Tongi. In 1979, IPCORI was again shifted to the atomic energy research establishment (AERE) at Savar, and was renamed as Institute of Food and Radiation Biology (IFRB). It started its research work on food preservation, pest management, sterilisation of medical and pharmaceutical products, disinfestation of grain, pulse, fruit, dried fish, tobacco, etc. Major research activities were strengthened by installation of 50,000-curie gamma beam, 650 irradiator, cold room, various types of spectrophotometer, laminar, hood, microscope, etc.

Stored-product insects are responsible for huge losses of stored grains in Bangladesh. However, all stored-product insects infesting rice, wheat, pulses, oilseeds and other grains can be disinfested by a limited dose of gamma radiation. Preservation of potato and onion were studied in laboratory scale by using radiation. Instead of being preserved in cold storage at 2°C, irradiated potato can be stored at 12°-15°C. This will save about a half of the energy cost of cold storage. Irradiated potatoes do not turn sweet like cold storage ones. Dried fish stored for off-season consumption gets heavily infested with insects. Insecticides are used for controlling insects, but pose great health hazard to consumers due to residual toxicity. Disinfestation by radiation is thus the hygienic alternative for the elimination of insects from dried fish.

Successful pilot and semi-commercial scale irradiation and storage studies were carried out in collaboration with wholesalers and traders on disinfestation of pulses, potato, onion and dried fish for preventing loss of storage. Nutritional and toxicological studies have also been conducted on irradiated food items. Consumer acceptability trials and test marketing of irradiated product were also carried out and results were favourable. But its commercial application has not started yet.

Due to unhygienic practices in the production line, medical supplies are heavily contaminated and contain pathogenic micro-organism. Infection is a great problem in hospitals and clinics. IFRB has determined the level of microbial contamination of common medical products like cotton, bandages, dressing gauge, swabs, silk-sutures, nylon suture, etc and has started a sterilisation programme. Most government hospitals and clinics sterilise their transfusion and infusion sets from IFRB. The irradiation facility of IFRB is open round the clock for giving sterilisation services to customers at considerably subsidised rates. [Miah Md Sirajul Haque]