Fruit Spoilage Prevention

In order to know how to prevent fruit spoilage one must understand the forces at work that lend to the deterioration and decay of post-harvest fruits and vegetables. The contributing factors include physical or “mechanical” damage, contamination by micro-organisms and the natural decay of the fruit or vegetable.

Mechanical damage
During post-harvest handling of produce, mechanical damage can be inflicted on the fruit or vegetable, causing the enzymes contained in the cell tissues to be released. These enzymes begin to break down the cellular material and the chemical reactions initiated by the enzymes result in the loss of flavor, nutrients, color and the deterioration of texture. Since enzymes are mainly composed of protein, they are sensitive to heat, therefore if temperatures are not controlled during post harvest handling this may cause the produce to deteriorate at an accelerated rate.

Natural decay
From the point of harvest, fruits and vegetables are literally cut off from their source of water, yet they continue to respire, losing water through their skin. This moisture loss is most noticeable in vegetables and fruits that contain large amounts of water, and over time the skin becomes flacid and leathery. Moisture loss may also cause the fruit or vegetable to shrink in size.

Micro-organism contamination
The typical micro-organisms responsible for the contamination and deterioration of fruits and vegetables are bacteria (e.g., Lactobacillus), molds (e.g., Rhizopus) and yeasts (e.g., Saccharomyces). Moulds grow from cells called spores that are present in the air. These spores settle and multiply on foods in suitable conditions of moisture and temperatures from 68-104 degrees F. Yeasts are microscopic fungi found in the air and soil, and on the surface of fruit. Yeast cells require oxygen, food, moisture and temperatures from 77-86 degrees F, to grow successfully.

Bacteria are by far the most widespread and potentially dangerous of the micro-organisms found in fresh foods. These minute single-celled organisms can divide into two every 20 minutes under ideal conditions, can develop into millions of organisms within a short time. Bacterial pathogens may not smell, taste or look bad but can cause severe illness. Active over a wide range of temperatures, bacteria can survive and grow at temperatures as low as 41 degrees F.

Fruit Spoilage Intervention

If the risk of food spoilage is to be reduced, conditions which promote spoilage must be limited. Less mechanical handling, reduced exposure to moisture and proper temperature control are three strategies that should be considered in any fruit spoilage prevention program.

The Fog Tunnel gives the fruit and vegetable packer an excellent option for moisture-reduced treatment of micro-organisms, increasing shelf life, preventing fruit spoilage and reducing the very real risk of human pathogen contamination.

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