Damage mechanisms in the handling of fruits.
"Progress in agricultural physics and engineering".
C.A.B. International, Walingford (UK), pp. 231-257.
The recognition of an increasing and worldwide demand for high quality in fruits and vegetables has grown in recent years. Evidence of severe problems of mechanical damage is increasing, and this is affecting the trade of fruits in European and other countries. The potential market for fresh high-quality vegetables and fruits remains restricted by the lack of quality of the majority of products that reach consumers; this is the case for local as well as import/export markets, so a reduction in the consumption of fresh fruits in favour of other fixed-quality products (dairy in particular) may become widespread. In a recent survey (King, 1988, cited in Bellon, 1989), it appears that, for the moment, one third of the surveyed consumers are still continuing to increase their fresh produce consumption. The factors that appear as being most important in influencing the shopping behaviour of these consumers are taste/flavour, freshness/ripeness, appealing look, and cleanliness. Research on mechanical damage in fruit and vegetables has been underway for several years. The first research made on physical properties of fruits was in fact directed towards analysing the response to slow or rapid loading of selected fruits (Fridley et al, 1968; Horsefield et al., 1972). From that time on, research has expanded greatly, and different aspects of the problem have been approached. These include applicable mechanical models for the contact problem, the response of biological tissues to loading, devices for detecting damage causes in machines and equipment, and procedures for sensing bruises in grading and sorting. This chapter will be devoted to the study of actual research results relative to the cause and mechanisms of mechanical damage in fruits (secondarily in vegetables), the development of bruises in these commodities, the models that have been used up to now, and the different factors which have been recognized as influencing the appearance and development of mechanical damage in fruits. The study will be focused mainly on contact-damage - that is, slow or rapid loads applied to the surface of the products and causing bruises. (A bruise is defined as an altered volume of fruit tissues below the skin that is discoloured and softened.) Other types of mechanical damage, like abrasion and scuffing, punctures and cuts, will be also mentioned briefly.