OLD_S294: Postharvest Quality and Safety in Fresh-cut Vegetables and Fruits
Statement of Issues and JustificationProject's Primary Website is at http://postharvest.ucdavis.edu/S294/index.shtm
Consumption of fresh-cut produce has increased at an annual rate of approximately 10% since 1995 and the market for fresh-cut vegetables and fruits is estimated at $10-12 billion annually (IFPA, 2004). The International Fresh-cut Produce Association (IFPA) estimates that fresh-cut products currently make up more than 15% of all fresh produce marketed in the U.S. Postharvest losses of fresh-cut produce are difficult to estimate but given the highly perishable nature of fresh-cuts compared to intact produce, the retail value of fresh-cut produce losses may exceed $1 billion annually.
The appearance, convenience, and generally high nutritive value of fresh-cut vegetables and fruits are bringing about increased sales of fresh produce, but repeat sales of the fresh-cuts is dependent upon assurance of its safety and the products having pleasing texture and flavor. To date, the industry has relied on established technologies derived mainly from practical experience to maintain visual quality and shelf-life with less consideration of the quality characteristics that drive repeat sales such as good flavor retention, maintenance of an appealing texture (crispness, crunchiness), package labeling underscoring the high nutritive value of the product, and increased microbial quality leading to extended shelf stability and food safety. Through interaction with the IFPA we know that current technologies, especially for fresh-cut fruits, do not provide the shelf stability needed to supply long distance domestic markets.
Unfortunately, as produce consumption has increased in the U.S. in recent years, so has the number of produce-related outbreaks of foodborne illness (Beuchat, 2002; National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, 1999; Nguyen-the and Carlin, 2000). Produce-related outbreaks accounted for 6% of all reported foodborne outbreaks in the 1990s compared to only 0.7% in the 1970s (FDA, 2004, Sivapalasingam et al., 2004). The CDC reported that foodborne outbreaks associated with fresh produce doubled between the period 1973-87 and 1988-92 (Buck et al., 2003). The conditions on the cut surface of fresh-cut products, with the presence of water and compounds that microbes can use for nutrition, provide ideal conditions for growth, however, it is difficult to compare the results of studies on survival and growth of pathogens done in different laboratories because substantial variations exist in methods for inoculation, treatment, or storage, and in procedures used to detect, recover, or enumerate pathogens on raw produce. The continuing nature of such produce-related outbreaks represents a threat to further increases in per capita consumption due to lowered confidence in the microbial safety of the product by the consuming public. Such outbreaks can also be very costly to growers, processors, shippers and restaurants.
Integration of physiological, pathological, food safety, and instrumental and sensory quality measurement concepts is essential for developing the most effective handling procedures and innovative, new technologies for maintaining quality and shelf stability of fresh-cut products. Much experimental work will be needed to optimize and integrate new and emerging treatments in diverse fresh-cut products. This fact supports the proposed integrated approach of having parallel projects in different states and of focusing the research into specific areas of importance. Alternative and emerging technologies for maintaining the quality and shelf stability of fresh-cut produce are being introduced at a rate that often precludes thorough evaluation of instrumental and sensory quality attributes, and their impact on product nutritional value, microbial quality and food safety. To do so, a multidisciplinary approach as proposed herein also will be needed to optimize the new and emerging treatments.
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