(Jan 16) SAN DIEGO — Surebeam Inc. closed its doors for good Jan. 16.

The company, which has faced a series of growing problems in the past couple of years, is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and has fired all 77 of its employees.

The move comes after the manufacturer of food irradiation equipment was unable to reach an agreement with Titan Corp., also of San Diego, its senior lender and former parent company. Surebeam was unable to raise the funds it needed to continue doing business.

Surebeam still faces several shareholder lawsuits, as well as an investigation from the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to file its financial reports for the quarter that ended June 30. It was this failure that led to the company being delisted from Nasdaq in October.

A court-appointed trustee is expected to liquidate Surebeam’s assets. Surebeam officials did not return phone calls.

What this means for the future of irradiated produce is uncertain. John Clark, president of Hawaii Pride LLC, Keaau, Hawaii — one of the biggest proponents of Surebeam’s electronic irradiation process — said the bankruptcy will have no effect on his company.

“We’ve contracted with a couple of the former engineers from Surebeam to do some maintenance work with us,” he said.

From an industry standpoint, Clark said the loss of Surebeam is a only minor setback for electronic irradiation.

“I think once the Chapter 7 shakes out, odds are somebody’s going to pick up the sum of the whole or the parts of Surebeam and they are going to move forward with it,” he said.

The bankruptcy marks the end of a long period of turmoil for Surebeam. In April 2002, the company dropped accounting firm Arthur Andersen after Andersen was indicted in federal court for its role in the collapse of energy giant Enron.

In March of that year, former president, chairman and chief executive officer Larry Oberkfell stepped down to take a position at Schwan Food Co.

More recently, Jack Henry, president and chief executive officer of Sierra Blanca Ventures, Phoenix, and a member of the company's board of directors, quit in October, citing time demands from his other business ventures.

Henry was chairman of Surebeam’s audit committee, which fired auditors Deloitte & Touche in August, less than three months after having hired the firm.