SPAIN – In a move to curb food packaging waste, the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) has released a comprehensive report detailing the fruits and vegetables most susceptible to spoilage when sold in bulk.
This strategic initiative aligns with the Spanish Royal Decree 1055/2022, which promotes bulk food sales, reusable packaging, and recycling, while also preventing food waste.
The report sheds light on the inherent challenges faced by bulk-marketed produce and provides crucial guidelines for both producers and consumers.
It identifies mechanical damage, water loss, and microbial contamination as the primary culprits behind spoilage in vegetables and mushrooms sold in bulk.
While packaging can mitigate some deterioration factors, fresh fruits, being more delicate, are particularly susceptible to mechanical damage due to loss of firmness.
Additionally, physiological changes during ripening render fresh produce more vulnerable to microbial growth.
Produce categories at risk
AESAN’s classification of produce into distinct risk levels provides a comprehensive understanding of the challenges associated with bulk sales.
Fruits like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and currants, along with sprouts, fall under the ‘Very High Risk’ category, signifying their extreme susceptibility to spoilage when sold in bulk.
The ‘High Risk’ group encompasses a variety of items, including edible flowers, aromatic herbs, specific pome fruits, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, stone fruits, infructescences, and inflorescences, all posing considerable risks during bulk marketing.
Moving to the ‘Medium Risk’ category, stem and root vegetables, fruit vegetables, certain pome fruits, and specific leafy vegetables are identified, highlighting a moderate level of vulnerability.
Notably, tubers emerge as the exception, presenting no significant risks in the context of bulk sales.
Mitigating risks through hygiene practices
To minimize defects in bulk vegetable products, AESAN advocates for strict adherence to Good Hygiene Practices (GHPs) throughout the production, storage, and distribution processes.
Keeping the post-harvest period as brief as possible is crucial. The agency emphasizes the pivotal role of retailers in implementing GHPs to prevent both mechanical damage and microbial contamination.
Moreover, AESAN encourages retailers to educate customers about relevant GHPs, creating a shared responsibility for maintaining the freshness and safety of bulk produce.
With these findings, AESAN calls upon producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers to work together in implementing stringent hygiene practices and ensuring the responsible handling of bulk produce.
By following these guidelines, Spain can significantly reduce food packaging waste while guaranteeing the safety and quality of fresh, unpackaged fruits and vegetables.