Fresh Produce Quality Defects

Top 5 Problems Affecting Food Quality

Based on thousands of hours spent examining fresh produce for quality over the past 20 years, we have compiled a list of the top quality problems you are likely to encounter. This list is what we would consider to be the five areas most worth controlling, but there are listed in no particular order, with the exception of point 1.

1. Mould and Breakdown

This is far and away the most common quality defect we find while managing fresh produce quality, and it is likely to remain the most common issue, due to the global nature of of the fresh food supply chain. No matter how efficient large scale supply is, there will always be a certain amount of time required to transport, and of course to sell, the product in question. There are, however, differing degrees of severity which will be encountered, which vary from the occasional lemon within bulk boxes that has moulded, or feathery storage mould found on the stem end of products such as melons, neither of which will cause significant concern, through to widespread rotting and breakdown, which can be an indicator of either delays within the food chain, or of significant mishandling at some stage in distribution.

2. Temperature Abuse

A significant percentage of all poor quality shipments we encounter are due to temperature abuse during the transportation of fresh produce. This can of course be in either direction, with containers subject to extreme high temperatures showing just as significant product deterioration as those which are chill damaged from low temperatures. This is, of course, more of a cause rather than an actual defect, as the visible symptoms of temperature abuse are varied, from discolouration to shrivelling and loss of turgidity through to complete breakdown of the product itself.

3. Product and Pack Weights

No matter whether you are buying your fresh melon in boxes of 6 fruit, or packs of herbs in 150g bags, weight is likely to be one of the most common reasons for a unit of fresh produce to fail to comply with your specification. This can be due to small fruit being packed at source, insufficient product being boxed or bagged in a pack house, or can often be caused through moisture loss during distribution.

4. Age and Softening

Fresh produce is slowly deteriorating from the moment it is harvested, and all of the control measures put in place through the supply chain are a means to draw out that life and give those buying, selling and distributing the product the best chance of delivering it to the customer in great condition. This will not always be possible, and the first sign of deteriorating quality will be softening of the product due mostly to moisture loss and loss of turgidity.

5. Size

Almost every fruit or vegetable on sale will have a range of industry standard sizes, usually given as a range of measurement such as tomatoes, supplied in varying grades from MMM (40mm - 47mm diameter) to MM (47mm - 57mm) and so on, incorporating all different sizes of fruit. The desired size of product can be important in terms of the products intended use, such as including baby button mushrooms on a breakfast, or in terms of yield per box such as needing to achieve 40 baked potatoes from a box.

As always, these guides are intended simply to provide a little information on ways in which you can manage and improve your food quality, and we would certainly recommend that you give us a call on 01208 895370 about any aspects of the information provided that you wanted to act on.

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Written by Tom New