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Ethylene management key to freshness

About a quarter of all fresh produce in the United States is lost to spoilage, and a good portion of that occurs before the produce even reaches supermarket shelves. That's often a result of poor handling practices that accelerate ripening, ageing and decay.  In addition to good sanitation and temperature management, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is one of the best ways of reducing spoilage in the supply chain.

One of the biggest threats to freshness actually originates within the produce itself. Fruits and vegetables produce as part of their natural ripening cycle a natural hormone, called ethylene, which they release into the air. Ethylene regulates many physiological processes in fruits and vegetables including ripening and senescence. In addition to being produced in high levels by damaged fruit, ethylene production is accelerated when produce is stored in unfavorable conditions. For instance, high temperatures can induce ethylene production and damage produce, which can in turn affect adjacent produce creating a chain reaction that will accelerate loss of quality and reduced shelf life. A few examples out of many being russet spotting of lettuce, yellowing of cucumbers and broccoli as well as increased toughness of asparagus spears.

Different fruits and vegetables release ethylene at different rates and under different circumstances and it's important to use that information in order to maximize freshness.

So it's clear that controlling ethylene levels when packing and shipping produce goes a long way toward maximizing freshness and extending shelf life. Minimizing temperature abuse throughout the supply chain by good temperature management from the moment the produce is harvested up until it reaches the final consumer is a must. MAP solutions can also help alleviate the effect of ethylene. The elevated CO2 concentrations that develop within will inhibit the synthesis and action of ethylene upon the produce stored within. Furthermore, the packaging serves as a physical barrier and can reduce damage that may be caused by high-ethylene-producing fruit such as apples, passion fruit, apricots and others, and in a sense, ensure that the proverbial bad apple doesn't ruin the whole barrel.

For additional ways to reduce the effects of ethylene damages to your produce contact us at info@stepac.com

For more information:
Gary Ward PhD.
StePac Ltd.

Publication date: 4/5/2012


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