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Fresh Cut Fruit and Vegetables

The Fresh Cut Fruit & Vegetables Industry (FFVI) is significantly different to Ready to Eat cooked foods; in that there is no opportunity with salads or fruit to carry out a thermal reduction step for control of microorganisms. 

The past number of years has seen an increase in the consumption of fruit and  vegetables,  particularly  in  the  area  of  prepared  salads  etc. Concurrently,  there  has  been  a  larger  number  of  foodborne  disease outbreaks  linked  to  fresh  produce.  This  underlines the  absolute imperativeness  of  assuring  produce  safety  and  quality.  Therefore professional growers have established Good Agricultural Practice standards to  minimise  potential  for  contamination  arising  from  seed  onwards,  and large-scale  processors  have  put  stringent  disinfection  protocols  in  place, whose role is to remove soil and associated microorganisms, reducing the risk  of  microbial  foodborne  disease  and  reduce  spoilage  by  reducing contamination by pathogenic and non-pathogenic microorganisms. 

Chlorine-based disinfectants are most commonly used in the fresh cut fruit and  vegetable  industry.  Benefits  include  their  low cost,  ease  of  use  and numerous studies demonstrating the ability of chlorine to reduce microbial numbers by up to 2 logs. Nonetheless, there is a drive to minimise the use of chlorine in the industry due to environmental concerns, potential health implications of chlorine by-products and consumer reticence. Coupled with this is a need to reduce water consumption, whilst ensuring that the safety and quality of products is maintained.

Both pathogenic and non-pathogenic microorganisms have been shown to form  intimate  attachments  and/or  form  biofilms  on  fruit  and  vegetable surfaces, as well as on food contact surfaces on processing equipment. Such interactions allow the microorganisms to effectively resist the antimicrobial activity of applied  disinfectants and therefore provide a source of further contamination of produce. Cleaning the FFVI involves the removal of gross debris from generally large equipment.

Typically low or medium pressure washdown systems are used for foam application and rinsing for the processing stages and then dry or semi dry cleaning for the packaging stages.

Hazard Management Allergen Management

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