KEY FACTORS FOR FRESH PRODUCE’S SHELF LIFE MAXIMIZATION
Although high demand of South East Asia’s tropical fresh produce, the export of fresh produce has limitations particularly a short shelf life and quality issue. Fresh produce exporters and producers are challenged with shelf life reduction due to the produce being exposed variably during processes of supply chain.
The aim of this article is to determine factors affecting the shelf life of fresh produce as those factors play primary roles of produce’s shelf life including inherent attributes, external conditions, post harvest treatment, microbial contamination and consumer handling.
Nature of fresh produce can certainly influence maturity level. Perishable foods and food with high level of water activity have an inherently shorter shelf life than foods with slower perishability or food with low level of water activity. Their metabolism remains active even after harvesting process and they require oxygen to stay alive. For determining shelf life length, there are two essential traits involved : respiration and transpiration.
Referred to breathing process, respiration absorbs oxygen to live in exchange of the release of carbon dioxide, water and heat. Concerning transpiration, it takes place during the growth process as well as harvesting process. Transpiration causes ripening, fermentation, discoloration and spoilage as we can observe fruits with a presence of mould or other undesirable microorganisms.
Furthermore, certain types of fresh fruits or vegetables produce significant amount of ethylene, which is known as “shelf life gas killer”. The reason behind is that high concentration of ethylene can elevate premature aging, resulting in rotting of fruits and vegetables and therefore lowering their shelf life. Samples of ethylene producers include apples, bananas, melons, pears and peaches. For freshness preservation and the reduction of spoilage, it is absolutely crucial to make ethylene control in the cold chain. This definitely advantages producers, exporters, retailers as they are able to extend fruits and vegetables’ shelf life even in out of season period.
Post harvest treatment and external conditions
Packaging materials, the number of pieces per carton, storage conditions after receiving goods at the warehouse of destinations, temperature fluctuation, humidity conditions, proper space to place the fresh merchandise all affect produce’s shelf life and therefore its quality. To obtain the longest shelf life and reduce post harvest losses,it is essential to consult your experienced fresh produce exporters concerning those external conditions as experienced fresh produce exporters are insightful about storing produce at proper temperature, at the right humidity level, in appropriate space, with suitable packaging materials as well as with proper pieces per carton.
To minimize the risk of microbial growth and contamination. The initial microbial load will influence the shelf life. Handling and storing produce with safe and as instructed sanitation practices are absolutely required for fresh produce’s shelf life maximization.
This is also another profound factor of lowering fresh produce’s shelf life as transferring produce from the store to home increases chance for produce being exposed to variable temperature as well as its relative humidity. High temperature speed up oxidation reactions. More importantly, when refrigerating fresh produce, placing higher-than-optimal temperature storage can accelerate microbial growth.
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