Deirdre M. Holcroft (Holcroft Postharvest Consulting) Stephen T. Lacasse (Fresh Appeal)
Fresh Appeal has designed and patented a fresh-cut processing system that incorporates innovative cutting technology, a multi-hurdle approach to wash water sanitation, and unique drying systems. The sanitation treatment uses a chemical sanitizer, ultraviolet light (UV-C) and mild heat in sequential steps. The exposure to UV-C has optimized by delivering the UV-C to produce through a column of circulating, turbulated, pasteurized water. In addition to providing good exposure to the produce, the turbulence of the water helps to physically remove microbes from the product surfaces which helps improve the efficacy of the UV-step. Microorganisms are more vulnerable in water than on produce. This system is designed to maintain the UV-C dose within strict parameters. The process water is continuously monitored for UV transmissivity. The water is filtered and replenished to maintain optimal performance. The dwell time in the ‘turbulator’ is controlled by flow rate. The heat treatment is usually applied after the UV-C step and is followed by rapid and effective cooling and, where necessary, antioxidant infusion. The processing line was initially developed for apples and has a unique means of aligning fruit to optimize coring and slicing, as well as an antioxidant recovery step. Several modifications have been made so that other produce items can processed. For example, blueberry and strawberry shelf life has been extended as a result of the berry drier. This system will be discussed along with relevant research and commercial data on sanitation efficacy, product quality and shelf life.