Abusing Temperatures

The importance of maintaining the correct temperature of fresh-cut products comes up at every meeting as one of the keys to quality. But the effects of temperature abuse had never been quite so obvious until recently.

A weekend storm knocked down trees and power lines in my west Michigan town. The power was out for a little more than 24 hours, but in the hottest part of the summer that was enough to bring the temperature in my refrigerator from cold to warm and humid, even without opening the door.

When the power eventually came back on, I checked the appliance for what I had lost. I started with the freezer, since that’s easiest. My wife and I really only keep ice cream in there, but while throwing out melted buckets of that I found a semi-thawed whole turkey we received a couple years back, so that went in the trash bag as well. Moving on to the refrigerator, I found unopened bags of fresh-cut salads that a day and a half before had been green and edible, but were now brown and barely visible through the water droplets inside the bag.

My containers of fresh-cut fruit fared even worse. The colors had visibly changed in the pineapple and watermelon chunks and the texture – from poking them, not eating them – would not have made for a pleasant eating experience.

Obviously, if a power outage had happened at a store the fresh-cuts would be thrown out, but what about temperature variations during transit or in the back of the store? Abuse adds up over time, and can lead to a bad eating experience.

Many fresh-cut processors have invested in a brand name, and as such the key to repeat sales is a positive experience with the products. The same is true for a retail store – if consumers don’t enjoy the produce, they’ll shop elsewhere.

Rather than lose all of the food in my refrigerator, the next time the power goes out I’ll make myself a big salad with a side of fresh-cut fruit. And for dessert, lots and lots of ice cream.

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