Chestnuts are widely consumed around the world, especially in China, which is the major producer. Portugal is the fifth biggest producer, reaching an income of 17 M €, with particular relevance for Trás-os-Montes region, which is responsible for 81 % of Portuguese production. During postharvest storage, a number of pests tend to attack chestnuts, contributing to high economic losses. Since 2010, the most effective postharvest treatment, i.e., fumigation with methyl bromide, was banned in the European Union, urging producers to seek effective and reasonable alternatives. One alternative could be irradiation with gamma rays or electron beam, which is used in food commodities, legally regulated and allows outstanding results. Our research group has tested both irradiation types in chestnuts and studied the nutritional, antioxidant, and other chemical parameters, obtaining promising results. Herein, we extended these studies to selected cultivars from Portugal and Italy in order to validate this technique as a viable alternative to fumigation. The selected irradiation dose (1 kGy) was chosen following previous results where it proved to be effective without causing remarkable changes in chemical or antioxidant profiles. To obtain a global knowledge about how each cultivar reacts to irradiation, principal component analysis was performed using all the measured parameters. Despite the detected differences among cultivars, which differentiated particularly Palummina and Cota, it was verified that irradiation did not cause changes in chemical and antioxidant parameters that could enable defining distinctive features among irradiated and non-irradiated chestnuts. Hence, the results herein reported might be seen as a new step toward the completion of irradiation as feasible conservation technology, independently of chestnuts origin.
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The authors are thankful to ON.2/QREN/EU Project No.13198/2010 for financial support. A.L. Antonio and J.C.M. Barreira thank FCT, POPH-QREN, and FSE for their grants (SFRH/PROTEC/67398/2010 and SFRH/BPD/72802/2010, respectively). The authors also thank Prof. A. Chmielewski, General Director of the Institute of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology, Warsaw, Poland, for allowing electron beam irradiations.
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Carocho, M., Antonio, A.L., Barreira, J.C.M. et al. Validation of Gamma and Electron Beam Irradiation as Alternative Conservation Technology for European Chestnuts. Food Bioprocess Technol 7, 1917–1927 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11947-013-1186-5