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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: EVALUATION AND MAINTENANCE OF FLAVOR, NUTRITIONAL AND OTHER QUALITY ATTRIBUTES OF FRESH AND FRESH-CUT PRODUCE

Location: Food Quality Laboratory

Title: Evaluation of current industry practices for maintaining tomato dump tank water quality during packinghouse operations

Authors
item Zhou, Bin -
item Luo, Yaguang
item Turner, Ellen
item Yang, Yang -
item Wang, Qin -
item Schneider, Keith -

Submitted to: Journal of Food Processing and Preservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 16, 2013
Publication Date: January 4, 2014
Citation: Zhou, B., Luo, Y., Turner, E.R., Yang, Y., Wang, Q., Schneider, K. 2014. Evaluation of current industry practices for maintaining tomato dump tank water quality during packinghouse operations. Journal of Food Processing and Preservation. DOI: 10.1111/jfpp.12200.

Interpretive Summary: Wash water quality and sanitizer strength are important factors influencing food safety of tomatoes washed in packinghouses. Soil, debris and juices from damaged fruits entering dump tanks along with tomatoes can cause water quality and sanitizer strength to decline dramatically, leaving wash solutions vulnerable to the growth of harmful bacteria. Maintenance of adequate sanitizer levels in tomato dump tanks is critical to reducing pathogen survival, transmission and incidence of internalization in the fruit. The researchers surveyed the water quality and sanitizer concentrations during routine operations of three major tomato packinghouses in Florida in 2010 and 2011. The results are useful for the FDA and tomato industry in developing packinghouse handling guidelines to maintain the quality and food safety of tomatoes.

Technical Abstract: In the United States, chlorine is the mainstay disinfectant for produce wash water. In packinghouses, large amounts of accumulating organic matter in dump tanks can cause a dramatic decline in chlorine levels, leaving wash solutions vulnerable to becoming a reservoir for both plant and human pathogens. Maintenance of adequate sanitizer levels in tomato dump tanks is critical to reducing pathogen survival, transmission and incidence of internalization in the fruit. This study investigated the normal variation associated with water quality and sanitizer concentrations during routine operations of three major tomato packinghouses in Florida in 2010 and 2011. Overall, water quality declined continuously during packinghouse operations, as exhibited by significant increases in chemical oxygen demand and turbidity, and associated fluctuations in free chlorine, ORP and pH. Although the packinghouses differed significantly in system configuration, operation and chlorine dosing rates, all of them maintained free chlorine concentrations of at least 25 mg/L in the dump tanks.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014
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