Title: FRESH VEGETABLE QUALITY IN THE UNITED STATES: CURRENT ISSUES
Submitted to: Acta Horticulture Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: December 15, 1997
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: This review and presentation summarized the status of quality and food safety of vegetables in the United States of America. It was pointed out that safety is a major concern today, particularly in light of the tremendous increase in the amount of vegetables eaten in a pre-cut, packaged form, ie., fresh-cut. It was also suggested that it is critical that objective ways to measure the texture of vegetables be developed that correlate with what consumers consider optimal textural quality subjectively for each commodity. This is important for providing a safe supply of high quality vegetables to consumers.
The purpose of this review article is to point out some of the challenges we face in the United States of America in relation to quality of fresh vegetables. It is clear that the single most important problem facing the fresh produce industry is one of food safety. The human pathogens involved and problems associated with them are discussed. The issue of the microbiological safety of the fresh produce consumed in the United States has been heightened lately due to the increased import of fresh produce from other countries where regulations may not be as tightly controlled, as well as the increasing percentage of produce consumed in a fresh-cut, pre-packaged form. Another serious problem currently being addressed is the roughly 20 percent loss of fresh produce that occurs after harvest. There is a need to develop a greater understanding of what contributes to deleterious changes in texture after harvest that lead to these losses, and how the important physiological and structural factors contributing to the texture of any given vegetable can be measured and related to the human perception of textural quality. The understanding between the human perception of quality and the methods used to measure quality are unclear and must be addressed. Other important issues of fresh vegetable quality are alternative methods to control various pre-harvest and postharvest diseases without the use of pesticides, particularly methyl bromide and fungicides, while maintaining yield, nutritional value and quality.