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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVING THE SENSORY QUALITY AND SHELF LIFE OF FRESH-CUT FRUIT PRODUCTS

Location: Food Processing and Sensory Quality Research

2006 Annual Report


1.What major problem or issue is being resolved and how are you resolving it (summarize project aims and objectives)? How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?
Fresh-cut produce is one of the fastest growing food categories in U.S. supermarkets. U.S. sales of fresh-cut produce sprang from $3.3 billion in 1994 to $11 billion in 2000, and are projected to reach $15 billion in 2005. Most of the increase in the sale of fresh-cut or minimally processed horticultural crops has been in the vegetable industry. Fresh-cut fruits account for approximately $1 billion/year of the fresh-cut produce market, but have the potential for a much larger share. A factor that limits the ability of the fresh-cut fruit industry to develop to its potential is the rapid decrease in product quality caused by physiological and biochemical changes that accompany fresh-cut fruit processing and storage. These changes adversely affect fruit flavor, texture, nutrient retention, and also pose food safety concerns. Measurement of physiological and biochemical changes that impact quality factors needs to be applied to develop approaches in handling, processing, packaging, and storage that will result in safe, fresh-cut fruit products with optimal sensory quality. This project aims to improve the sensory quality and shelf life of fresh-cut fruits by utilizing existing technologies and/or applying novel approaches in handling, processing, packaging, and storage. Effects of treatments developed on fresh-cut fruit quality attributes will be assessed via physiological and biochemical measurements, and by sensory evaluations. Batch processing will be conducted collaboratively with industry, to determine feasibility and commercial potential of fresh-cut fruit processing and handling recommendations. Success of the project will make it possible for the industry to consistently provide the consumer with convenient, ready-to-eat fresh-cut fruit products, with the quality attributes of uncut fruits. Consumer demand for fresh-cut fruits will increase, leading to further development and growth of this industry. This will translate into economical benefits to the industry and the grower, and a more balanced nutritionally sound diet for the consumer. This project is aligned with National Program 306, "Quality and Utilization of Agricultural Products", and addresses component, New Processes, New Uses, and Value-Added Foods and Biobased Products.


2.List by year the currently approved milestones (indicators of research progress)
Objective 1: Develop cutting methods to control wound signals as a means of preventing degradative actions that affect cut fruit sensory quality and shelf life.

Sub-Objective 1.1: Develop methods to control wound signals by controlling turgor pressure (pressure exerted from within cell walls) loss during processing.

Milestones: FY 2005: Determine effects of underwater fruit processing on fresh cut cantaloupe melon product quality.

FY 2006: Determine effects of processing temperature and processing aids.

FY 2007: Optimize parameters for underwater processing.

FY 2008: Determine effects of combining underwater processing with other technologies developed.

FY 2009: Optimize treatment for other fruits and transfer technology.

Sub Objective 1. 2: Develop methods to extend fresh-cut fruit shelf life by altering wound signals using ultraviolet radiation.

Milestones: FY 2005: Determine potential to extend fresh-cut fruit shelf life with ultraviolet light (UV).

FY 2006: Determine UV parameters and conditions best suited for fresh-cut fruit.

FY 2007: Optimize parameters for UV processing of cut cantaloupe melon.

FY 2008: Determine effects of combining UV processing of cut cantaloupe melon processing with other technologies developed.

FY 2009: Optimize treatment for other fruits and transfer technology.

Sub Objective 1.3: Develop methods to extend sensory quality and shelf life of fresh-cut fruits by heat treatment.

Milestones: FY 2005: Determine effect of mild heat pre-treatment on fresh-cut fruit quality. FY 2006: Determine parameters best suited for mild-heat pretreatment on fresh-cut fruit quality.

FY 2007: Optimize treatment for other fruits and transfer technology.

Objective 2: Develop methods to retard post-cutting biochemical and physiological actions that negatively affect fruit sensory quality and shelf life.

Sub-Objective 2.1: Develop post-cut dip solutions for improving the sensory quality and shelf life of fresh-cut fruits.

Milestones: FY 2005: Evaluate effect of post-cut processing aids on fresh-cut fruit quality.

FY 2006: Select promising compounds and determine conditions best suited for their applications.

FY 2007: Optimize conditions for post-cut processing aids.

FY 2008: Determine effects of combining the use of processing aids on cantaloupe melon with other technologies developed.

FY 2009: Optimize treatments for other fruits and transfer technology.

Sub-Objective 2.2: Improve sensory quality and shelf life of fresh-cut fruit by modified atmosphere packaging.

Milestones: FY 2005: Conduct testing for effect of atmosphere composition on fresh-cut cantaloupe melon quality.

FY 2006: Establish modified atmosphere conditions suitable for fresh-cut cantaloupe melon.

FY 2007: Optimize modified atmosphere processes and conditions for preserving fresh-cut cantaloupe melon quality.

FY 2008: Determine optimum modified atmosphere conditions for other fruits.

FY 2009: Transfer technology.

Sub-Objective 2.3: Improve sensory quality and shelf life of cut fruit with edible coatings.

Milestones: FY 2005: Determine coating formulations for edible films on cut cantaloupe melon. FY 2006: Determine film permeability and effectiveness as processing aid carriers for fresh-cut cantaloupe melon.

FY 2007: Optimize technology for use of edible films to improve fresh-cut cantaloupe melon quality.

FY 2008: Optimize treatments for other fruits.

FY 2009: Transfer technology.

Objective 3: Correlate cut fruit quality bio-chemically with sensory evaluations, and develop markers for rapidly assessing cut fruit quality.

Milestones: FY 2006: Evaluate relationship between biochemical and sensory effects in fresh-cut fruit.

FY 2007: Determine correlations between bio-chemical determinants and sensory attributes.

FY 2009: Evaluate technologies developed through market studies.


4a.List the single most significant research accomplishment during FY 2006.
UNDERWATER CUTTING TO RETAIN FRESH-CUT FRUIT QUALITY. Previous research demonstrated that submerging fruit in a fluid such as water during fresh-cut fruit processing significantly improves sensory shelf life during refrigerated storage of the cut fruit. The process involved peeling and cutting of the fruit while submerged as a means of controlling loss of turgor associated with tissue wounding. The control of turgor pressure through underwater processing significantly reduced oxidative stress of the fruit during storage as determined by peroxidase assay of stored fruit. The process of peeling and cutting under water, however, presents some challenges in the design of equipment that could be used for commercial operations. It was determined that initial slicing of cantaloupe melon into halves underwater followed by aerobic peeling and cutting is as effective in extending shelf life of the fresh-cut fruit as fruit that was peeled and cut into cubes underwater. The result eliminates the labor intensive processing underwater to extend fresh-cut fruit shelf life and the engineering challenges presented by cutting and peeling underwater. Dissolved calcium in the treatment solution reduced microbial growth on the cut fruit pieces during refrigerated storage. This project is aligned with National Program 306, "Quality and Utilization of Agricultural Products", and addresses component, New Processes, New Uses, and Value-Added Foods and Biobased Products, and Problem Area 1d, Preservation and/or Enhancement of Quality and Marketability.


4b.List other significant research accomplishment(s), if any.
Accomplishments emerging from this project over the last year have been presented to the scientific community and industry as presentations at the 2006 Institute of Food Technologists, American Chemical Society and International Fresh-Cut Produce Association. A Reimbursable Agreement between ARS and the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources on Quality and Sensory Analysis of Fresh-Cut Melons Pretreated with Efficacious Sanitation Treatments is in effect. There are currently no barriers to adoption and durability of products that have arisen or may arise from this work. Products emanating from this research will be fresh-cut fruits developed for supermarket and food-service industries. Information resulting from our research that would improve fresh-cut processing and handling will be disseminated to industry and scientists. The ultimate goal is to deliver fresh-cut fruit products with optimum sensory attributes, as well as post-harvest keeping quality.

HARVEST MATURITY AND FLAVOR. Ripeness and aroma volatile concentrations are significantly, highly correlated with initial maturity at harvest in fresh-cut cantaloupe. Such maturity-dependent volatile data indicate clearly that harvest maturity is important for optimizing fresh-cut flavor quality, especially since it was demonstrated that there is a consistent change in the ester balance through fresh-cut storage, which is independent of initial processing maturity. Subsequently, the industry needs to be attentive concerning full characterization of initial materials used for processing fresh-cut fruits to deliver optimum sweetness, flavor and shelf life.


4c.List significant activities that support special target populations.
None


4d.Progress report.
None.


5.Describe the major accomplishments to date and their predicted or actual impact.
The research accomplishments described below are aligned with National Program 306, "Quality and Utilization of Agricultural Products", and address component, New Processes, New Uses, and Value-Added Foods and Biobased Products.

1. The control of wound signals using mild pre-treatment of cantaloupe melon heat was demonstrated to be beneficial for improving sensory quality and shelf life of fresh-cut fruit. Pre-heating whole cantaloupe melon previously stored at 4 degrees to 50-60 degrees in a waterbath for 60 minutes, followed by cooling to 4 degrees overnight prior to cutting, reduced respiration and moisture loss, and improved flavor and firmness retention during storage of the fresh-cut fruit. The procedure has been evaluated by a number of companies for adoption, and the information has been published.

2. The effect of cutting fruit under UV light as a means of extending fresh-cut fruit shelf life was determined. Activities of lipid degrading enzymes (lipase and esterase), and microbial growth were reduced as a result of cutting cantaloupe melon under UV relative to post-cut UV treated fruit. Human sensory evaluation indicated reduced rancidity, and instrumental texture measurements demonstrated superior firmness retention in treated fruit during storage. A leading manufacturer of UV equipment is designing a prototype equipment to test effectiveness of the process under bulk processing conditions.

3. ARS scientists have demonstrated that submerging fruit in a fluid, such as water, during fresh-cut fruit processing, significantly improves sensory shelf life during refrigerated storage of the cut fruit. The process involves peeling and cutting of the fruit while submerged, as a means of controlling loss of turgor associated with tissue wounding. The control of turgor pressure through underwater processing significantly reduced oxidative stress of the fruit during storage as determined by peroxidase assay of stored fruit.

4. The effectiveness of initially slicing fruit into halves under water, followed by aerobic processing on improving sensory quality and shelf life of fresh-cut cantaloupe melon was demonstrated. The improved quality of the cut fruit through this process eliminates the labor intensive processing underwater to extend fresh-cut fruit shelf life and the engineering challenges presented by cutting and peeling underwater. Dissolved calcium in the treatment solution was shown to significantly reduce microbial growth on the cut fruit pieces during refrigerated storage.

5. The efficacy of a number of anti-microbial compounds (cetylpyridinium chloride, sodium fluoride, triclosan, and acidified sodium chlorite) on fresh-cut cantaloupe melon was determined. Preliminary tests indicated the cetylpyridinium chloride and acidified sodium chlorite were superior, and that cetylpyridinium chloride (0.6 – 1.0%) could potentially inhibit growth of human pathogens on cut melon surfaces. Various harvest regimes, storage regimes, cultivars, and different packaging methods were used to characterize volatile ester differences after cutting, and how changes occur in characteristic flavors throughout the post-harvest life in fresh-cut apples and cantaloupes. In most cases, acetate compounds decline, whereas, non-acetate esters increased during fresh-cut storage.

6. Volatile esters were categorized into acetates and non-acetates and tracked through various storage and packaging regimes in fresh-cut apple, cantaloupe and honeydew. It was demonstrated that non-acetate volatile compounds increased while acetates concomitantly decreased during storage, resulting in a significant change to the overall balance of aroma compounds.


6.What science and/or technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the science and/or technology likely to become available to the end-user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption and durability of the technology products?
Volatile esters were categorized into acetates and non-acetates and tracked through various storage and packaging regimes in fresh-cut apple, cantaloupe and honeydew. It was demonstrated that non-acetate volatile compounds increased while acetates concomitantly decreased during storage, resulting in a significant change to the overall balance of aroma compounds.


7.List your most important publications in the popular press and presentations to organizations and articles written about your work. (NOTE: List your peer reviewed publications below).
With a Good Dunking, Just-Cut Produce Stays Fresher Longer – ARS Press release August 1, 2005.

Fresh-cut Fruit Moves into the Fast Lane, Agricultural Research Magazine, 8/2005. (Reprinted by over 40 newspapers, magazines, and web sites.)

Keeping Just-Cut Cantaloupe Fresh and Flavorful ARS Food & Nutrition Research Briefs, October, 2005.

USDA Broadcast Media and Technology Video News Release; Fresh-cut Fruit, 1/06 (Broadcast on Ag Day television and cable networks).

UVC Light Prolong Melon Viability. The Packer June 19, 2006. Page B7.

John Beaulieu gave an invited presentation on fresh-cut fruit at the Gordon Postharvest Physiology Conference in Newport, RI. 07/14/06.


Review Publications
Lamikanra, O., Bett Garber, K.L., Kueneman, D., Ukuku, D.O. 2005. Effect of processing under ultraviolet light on the shelf life of fresh-cut cantaloupe melon. Journal of Food Science. 70:534-539.

Beaulieu, J.C. 2006. Effect of cutting and storage on acetate and non-acetate esters in convenient, ready to eat fresh-cut melons and apples. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. 41(1):65-73.

Beaulieu, J.C., Ingram, D.A., Lea, J.M., Bett Garber, K.L. 2004. Effect of harvest maturity on the sensory characteristics of fresh-cut cantaloupe. Journal of Food Science. 69(7):S250-S258.

Beaulieu, J.C. 2006. Volatile changes in cantaloupe during growth, maturation, and in stored fresh-cuts prepared from fruits harvested at various maturities. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. 131:127-139.

Lamikanra, O., Bett Garber, K.L., Ingram, D.A., Watson, M.A. 2005. Use of mild heat pre-treatment for quality retention of fresh-cut cantaloupe melon. Journal of Food Science. 70(1):C53-C57.

Beaulieu, J.C., Dumas, A.M., Janes, M.E. 2006. Effectiveness of cetylpyridinium chloride dips against food borne pathogens on stored fresh-cut cantaloupe. IFPA and S-294 Science and Technology Symposium. 025-06.

Last Modified: 4/24/2014
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