Bananas: Grocers Worst Nightmare

What is the worst fruit of all time?

In terms of its ability to waste, Food and Wine magazine rates bananas as the worst. A February 13, 2018 article said bananas are the biggest source of grocery store waste.

Bananas are not the only produce products to rot before it gets to consumers: food is wasted at every step of the supply chain. But bananas stand out because consumers tend to only purchase bananas that they perceive are ripe, which in most cases are a spotless yellow or yellow-green.

What consumers don’t understand is that bananas are ripe and edible while green all the way through until black. The darker the banana, the more sweet it is. The lighter the banana, the more starchy it tastes. Bananas can be eaten alone, used in baking, mixed in a smoothie, as a topping for oatmeals and ice cream, and even fried. How they are used is determined by the fruit’s starchy or sweet consistency.

However, a significant amount of banana waste comes from the transportation of the fruit. Ash Ngu, an expert of banana transportation, described on Quora how the process works.

“Bananas that Americans eat are imported from countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama. They’re harvested green and unripened so that they can last the 3-4 weeks it takes to get them into grocery stores. During processing, they’re broken up into bunches, labeled with those little stickers and boxed up in order to protect them during shipping.

Source: Costa Rica Daily Photo 

“The bananas are transported across the ocean in temperature-controlled ship holds. Once they get to their destination port, a ripening manager inspects the bananas. They’re visually inspected, their temperature is taken, the peel is peeled, banana flesh color and texture is evaluated. Then they go into pressurized rooms which force air through the banana boxes for consistent ripening. The temperature of the room can be controlled to quicken or slow the ripening process. After they are ripened appropriately, the bananas are sent on their final journey in trucks to various grocery shelves across the nation and into your hands.”

Some producers use chemical gases to speed up the ripening process of bananas. This chemical is called ethylene. A small hydrogen gas, ethylene is a naturally occurring byproduct of ripening fruit, including bananas. Producers will often use ethylene to encourage the ripening of bananas to time their peak “fresh appearance” with the date at which consumers will see them on store shelves.

One conclusion that can be gleaned from learning about the process it takes to get bananas from tree to store is that doing so is very expensive. There are a few items out there that can help with bringing more fruit to the customer, but refrigeration and ethylene are the main methods used by producers and grocers today.

How to Keep Perishables Cool

Perishables and Temperature Control

Whether you vote red or blue, there is one thing everyone can agree on: food. Although technology for transporting perishable goods has advanced dramatically, keeping perishables cool can be a problem for people who do not have large scale refrigeration resources. Read on for solutions for keeping produce fresh.

Goodness Gaseous: Understanding Ethylene and Respiration

Ethylene, often referred to as the ‘death’ or ‘ripening hormone’, is an odorless, colorless, gaseous plant hormone that exists in nature. Not easily detectable, the largest producers are plant and plant products (ie. fruits, vegetables and floral products) which have ethylene within their tissues and release it into the surrounding atmosphere.

bowl of tomatosEthylene plays a regulatory role in many processes of plant growth, development, and eventually death.  The common practice of placing a tomato in a paper bag to speed ripening is the classic example of the effect of ethylene on produce. Increased levels of ethylene contained within the bag serve as a stimulant and initiate the production of more ethylene, which is then reabsorbed by the tomato and repeated over and over (Flower).

Flowers, fresh fruits, and vegetables remain alive by respiration, which is their process of converting fuel into energy. High respiration rates rapidly create more ethylene, and deplete stored carbohydrates (fuel) which shortens the life of the produce. Respiration also increases as temperature increases, and therefore temperature control during transport is critical for food and other perishables to be fresh on delivery (Benkeblia).

Woman holding bunch of flowers in a fieldFlower Power: How to Keep Flowers Fresh

Flowers go through respiration just like other produce. The trick to keeping them alive is to store and ship them in cooler temperatures. A flower held at 86°F/30°C will age (respire) up to forty-five times as fast as a flower held at a colder 36°F/2°C.  When cooler temperatures are applied and the cold chain is maintained, the vase life of cut flowers is greatly extended (Reid).

Food Fight: Using Cold to Preserve Perishables

Produce temperature is the most important factor affecting its quality and preventing food wastage. For fruits and vegetables, respiration increases by a factor of two to five for each 18°F/10°C increase in temperature above the recommended holding temperature. For example, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries have a shelf life of seven days at 32°F/0°C, but only one day at 68°F/20°C. Longer-lived produce such as green beans, mushrooms, and green onions last only two to three days at 68°F/20°C. Above 86°F/30°C the produce will die or lose quality rapidly (Benkeblia).

All the way through the cold chain, produce should be held at its lowest recommended storage temperature. Keeping temperature in check is vital.

BananasBananas are a prime example for the need for temperature control of perishables in transport. To obtain maximum shelf life, bananas are harvested when they are mature, but not yet ripe. The fruit requires careful handling, rapid transport to ports, cooling, and refrigerated shipping to prevent the bananas from producing ethylene.  “To bring this tropical fruit to distant markets and have it be edible is kind of amazing,” says Randy Ploetz, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida. “It’s pretty much a science” (qtd. in Dawson).

Flux Wrap and North Slope ChillersKeep Perishables Cool with North Slope Chillers

So how do you keep perishables cool and safe without investing in a reefer truck?  Your operation needs cooling; however, you do not have the resources to support large-scale refrigeration. North Slope Chillers offers innovative industrial cooling systems that will keep your assets safe. With the new North Slope Chillers industrial cooling product line, you can efficiently regulate temperature-sensitive material under both regular and hot conditions, preventing food wastage. Transporting perishables and other heat sensitive materials is no longer a major challenge.   

  • Ready-to-ship industrial cooling / process cooling products are available for 15, 30, & 55-gallon drums, and for 5-gallon buckets.
  • Custom systems can be designed for a large variety of industrial cooling applications, and shipped within 2 weeks.
  • Blankets use North Slope Chiller’s patented heat-spreading technology in reverse to draw heat to the blanket and cool the contents of the container
  • Blanket cover and insulation are the same as the robust system used in Powerblanket heating products
  • North Slope Chillers industrial cooling systems are portable (120VAC required)
  • Control the temperature of your equipment or bulk materials
  • When materials are delivered too hot, waiting for the material to cool can mean lost hours/days
  • Blankets can be left installed and running while bulk material containers are in use

 

Works Cited

Benkeblia, Noureddine.  “Transportation of fresh horticultural produce”. Post harvest Technologies for Horticultural Crops, 2009, Vol. 2. 8 March 2017. http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/datastore/234-1291.pdf

“Flower Care”. Grower Direct. 9 March 2017. http://www.growerdirect.com/flower-care-ethylene-gas

Reid, M.S. “Handling of Cut flowers for Export”. 8 March 2017. http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/datastore/234-1906.pdf

Keeping Your Food Hot With Powerblanket

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When most people stop to consider the concerns associated with storing, transporting, and processing large amounts of food, their minds often turn toward the need for refrigeration. But there’s an opposing dilemma that exists for certain types of food-processing applications and transportation methods, and that is how to bring the food to the proper temperature and keep it there.   

 

food processing plant with large vats of substance

A Hot Topic

For some food-processing applications, it’s imperative that a certain temperature be maintained for long periods of time. Many companies offer large-scale, industry-grade heating equipment fit for food heating and processing, but such equipment is often very expensive and requires a good deal of space to house it all. Yet what if you could house, heat, and process the food in the same containers you store it in?

Obviously, such a convenience would offer not only space-saving benefits, but also time and money-saving benefits too. It’s important to mention that this revolutionary take on keeping food hot couldn’t just deliver heat, though. It would have to deliver smart heat. There would have to be a way to make certain the food stayed at the ideal temperature without overheating. This would be the most important matter, and a second nice feature would be some form of automation in its heat distribution. It would certainly be helpful, for example, if this solution could automatically adjust the temperature delivery based on the fluid level in the container.   

 

The Powerblanket® Smart Blanket Barrel Heater

Powerblanket® thought that this would all be very helpful as well. That’s why Powerblanket® offers a product that allows food-processing plants to do the very things mentioned above. The Powerblanket® Smart Blanket barrel heater provides a safe, efficient, and economical solutions that is far, far less expensive and cumbersome than the alternative. Consider these great features listed below:

Powerblanket heated barrel wrap

  • Specifically designed for challenging food processing applications
  • Prevents material over-heating
  • Three separate zones of heat
  • Delivers heat where it is needed = SMART
  • Automatically adjusts to varying fluid levels
  • Standard 55 Gallon Drum Model 120 VAC 780 Watts
  • Adjustable for product temperatures from ambient to 145 +/- 5°F
  • Water, dust, and corrosion-resistant, programmable thermostatic controller (NEMA 4X standard)
  • Tough abrasion, rip, water, and chemical-resistant outer enclosure
  • Adjustable straps with metal buckles

See all the details of the Powerblanket® drum heater by downloading the free product spec sheet!