Fresh-cut apple slices like this one quickly turn brown and mushy when exposed
to air. ARS chemist Dominic Wong was part of a team that discovered that
certain calcium salts protect apple slices from changes in color, taste, or
Fresh-cut apple slices should be
available soon to consumers nationwide, thanks to a cooperative research and
development agreement between ARS and
Mantrose-Haeuser Co., Inc., of Attleboro, Massachusetts.
The refrigerated, packaged slices last 2 to 3 weeks without browning or
losing crispness. Schoolchildren and some consumers are already enjoying the
new apple treat, which should be available nationwide within a few months.
"We've been working on methods to preserve fresh-cut fruit since
1986," says ARS chemist Attila E. Pavlath. "This is the first
commercial product that retains the desirable characteristics of fresh apples
without leaving a detectable residue."
Pavlath collaborates with researchers in the Process Chemistry and
Engineering Research Unit at ARS' Western Regional Research Center in Albany,
California. He retired from ARS after 32 years to serve as president of the
American Chemical Society.
The key discovery by ARS researchers was that certain calcium salts protect
apple slices from color, taste, or texture changes. ARS chemists Dominic W.S.
Wong and Wayne M. Camirand (retired) also worked on the project.
"When you cut an apple, many physiological changes occur to the fruit
tissue, including browning and the breakdown of cells," Pavlath says.
"But this new treatment slows the process for at least 2 weeks." This
time is crucial to allow for packaging, shipping, and marketing, he says.
Convenience foods like cut fruit and premixed saladsknown as lightly
processedare growing in popularity. According to the International
Fresh-cut Produce Association, ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables make up about
10 percent of produce sales, worth up to $10 billion annually.
The equipment necessary to peel, core, and slice the apples already exists.
Scientists at Mantrose-Haeuser took the ARS findings and created a proprietary
formulation using FDA-approved vitamins and minerals. They are marketing the
product under the trade name NatureSeal for use by fresh-cut processors and the
food-service industries. They are also developing treatments for other
hard-to-keep produce, such as potatoes, carrots, peppers, onions, and bananas.
The team has patented their methods (Patent No. 5939117).By
Kathryn Barry Stelljes,
Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
This research is part of New Uses, Quality, and Marketability of Plant
and Animal Products, an ARS National Program (#306) described on the World Wide
Web at http://www.nps.ars.usda.gov/programs/cppvs.htm.
For more information, contact Dominic W.S.
Wong or Attila E. Pavlath at the
USDA-ARS Western Regional Research Center,
and Engineering Research Unit, 800 Buchanan St., Albany, CA 94710; phone
(510) 559-5621, fax (510) 559-5818.