The Cool Chain Association (CCA)’s second tracking trial of perishables undertaken by its member the Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) has identified significant areas where action can be taken to reduce food loss.
PPECB tracked consignments of raspberries, which have a very low shelf life, from South Africa to the UK as part of an ongoing project with the CCA to identify pain points in the cool supply chain in order to develop best handling practices for perishables.
Results announced at the CCA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) today suggest that the cut-to-cool time, taken to bring the berries down to a temperature of around 5 ̊C, should be reduced to within 60 minutes of harvest to better maintain berry quality during storage.
In addition, the trial indicated that a lower air temperature of 0 ̊C rather than the current 2 ̊C should be used for blast cooling.
Owing to their highly limited shelf-life, raspberries can only be transported by airfreight, but their delicate nature makes them prone to damage en route.
The goal of the trial is to optimize product quality in the market by adapting current handling processes and bringing airfreight cold chain management protocols up to the same standard as those for sea freight.
The trial followed an export of raspberries from a farm in Cape Town, South Africa, where some 85 percent of raspberries are produced for the export market, to the United Kingdom.
“Approximately 30 percent of all berry exports from South Africa to market have quality defects," said Vijan Chetty, General Manager, PPECB and Board of Directors, CCA.
“In order to mitigate this food loss, we need further research and trials into how handling practices can be optimized.
“The results of our two trials have already highlighted several actionable measures that can be taken to protect product integrity and our continued research will help the CCA to hone a best practice framework to prevent spoilage and waste in the perishables supply chain,” said Chetty.
The trial assessed a number of factors including the quality of raspberries on the farm, temperature management throughout the trade lane, handling processes, and a final quality evaluation on arrival at the end destination.
Temperature fluctuations in the packhouse, in flight, and at the destination handling facility, while unavoidable, should be significantly reduced in duration to further minimize the incidence of quality defects.
Future research will see timed temperature tolerance trials performed to determine the duration of exposure to a particular temperature beyond which berry quality and shelf life are compromised.
Additional investigation to measure the internal temperature of the fruit, which changes more rapidly than the external air temperature, may also be conducted, as well as deeper research into handling protocol upon arrival.
In March, the CCA was involved in a similar perishables study with the PPECB, monitoring the farm-to-table export of cut flowers from South Africa to Europe.
CCA’s next event will be as part of the Airfreight Pharma event in Athens, Greece from the 5th to the 7th of September.
PPECB’s in-house research department, which analyses quality and food safety standards is working with CCA to develop a body of data to be used to suggest best practices for the perishables supply chain.