Temperature control and closed cold chain most important preservation methods for fruit and vegetable produce

The Fresh Corridor expertise network commissioned Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research to study the impact of a number of preservation techniques on product quality. The study shows that temperature control and a closed cold chain are the most important methods for safeguarding quality in fresh product chains. Extra preservation techniques, such as controlling humidity and other gases, will only be of benefit once the cooling strategy has been optimised.

Most fruit and vegetables have a limited storage life (i.e. they are highly perishable), so fruit and vegetable retail companies have to take stringent measures to guarantee the quality of their products in the chain. Opportunities can be missed due to a lack of accessible knowledge about the possibilities and risks, and in turn, the development of multimodal transport is stagnating. Some of the obstacles preventing multimodal transport from becoming embedded in fresh chains could be removed if potato, fruit & vegetable retail companies were to be told about the expected effects.

Storage life

Coolboxx, Frugi Venta
Coolboxx, Frugi Venta

Food & Biobased Research has devised an accessible overview showing details of the existing and new preservation techniques with a major impact on the optimal storage life of products in various fresh chains. It also describes the main quality features of twenty types of fruit and vegetables. The overview constitutes a convenient tool enabling potato, fruit & vegetable retail companies to check whether and to what extent a particular conditioning technique helps to prolong storage life or reduce risks in multimodal fruit and vegetable chains.

Preservation techniques

The right preservation techniques help fruit and vegetables to maintain their high initial quality for as long as possible. The study shows that temperature control and an closed cold chain are the most important methods for guaranteeing quality. Humidity control is the second most important technique. Controlled Atmosphere (CA) only reinforces the process when connected directly at the harvesting location. In addition, CA is particularly useful in longer distribution chains. Refreshing the atmosphere with outside air is an adequate way of limiting the ethylene concentration (which stimulates ripening), whereas CA makes use of other air-purifying techniques. Air disinfectants (UV, ozone, etc.) have limited added benefits. Very little independent research data about this relatively new equipment is available, making it difficult to give objective advice.

The study also shows that many quality problems can be resolved by choosing the right packaging. Factors such as the design of packaging and the way products are stacked determine the efficiency of the cooling process. When using extra protection in the form of MA packaging, it is important to use the correct materials.