University of California

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Processing and Handling of Fresh-cut Tropical Fruits

Latifah Mohd Nor, MARDI (Malaysia)

Consumer demand for healthful and convenient food began to merge with advances in processing and handling of fresh-cut fruit industries. The needs for tropical fruits to be marketed in fresh-cut/ready to eat forms is greater as compared to the temperate fruits due to the large fruit size, high price particularly early in the season, risk in obtaining poor quality pulp, difficulty in peeling/cutting and weight problems during transportation. Fresh-cut processing allows cut pieces to be carefully examined right to the fruit center. Thus it can be use as tool for quarantine treatment to enhance market access. The disruption of tissues and cell integrity during fresh-cut processing often increases respiration rate, ethylene synthesis, enzymatic browning and development of physiological disorders, which associated with increases in rates of other biochemical reactions responsible for changes in colour, flavor, texture and nutritional quality (sugar, acid and vitamin contents). Not only that, the damaged plant tissues also provide a nourishing medium for microbial growth. In view of the above, Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), had undertaken intensive research in developing suitable fresh-cut processing techniques to cater the needs both for local and export markets. Due to the inherent nature of the tropical fruits (especially the skin and size), suitable mechanization inputs had also been developed to facilitate and speed up the processing time. New approaches in evaluating suitable postharvest treatments, improve packing systems and storage requirements became a main focus in the research and development activities. Pre-treatments to reduce microbial spoilage, excessive tissue softening and tissue browning are needed for quality improvement of fresh-cut pineapple. Modified atmosphere packaging by using seal or shrink wrapping shown to be effective for retail packing system. Temperature abuse occur during distribution and display, and some microorganism of concern may grow under low temperatures and modified atmospheres. Because of these potential hazards, the microbiological quality and safety of the fresh-cut fruits is of great concern. An effective sanitation program and strict adherence to good personal and process hygiene need to be employed during handling and market distribution to ensure safe and quality products delivered to the consumers. The beneficial outputs of the new approaches were observed during commercial trials of the selected tropical fruits to Hong Kong (2008 and 2014), Singapore (2009), Dubai (2010), Perth (2011) and Sydney (2013).

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