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Onion Storage And Handling
The quality and safety of onions depends on proper handling and storage. Fresh market retail processing can affect the flavor and quality of the onions people take home.
Always follow proper handling procedures and safe handling guidelines as outlined by the Food and Drug Administration Food Code. Read and follow handling instructions on all processed products according to the manufactures label.
Basic Storage & Handling Tips For Dry Bulb Onions:
Always handle onions with care. Do not drop onions as this often causes bruising and internal decay.
Bagged or boxed onions should be stored at least one foot away from walls and other pallets to allow proper air movement.
Keep stacks of bags or boxes at five feet or less.
Store onions in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area.
Maintain storage temperature of 45-55°F.
Do not wrap onions in plastic or store in plastic bags. A lack of air circulation will reduce shelf life.
Onions should feel firm and dry, be free of gray or black mold, and should not have any visible sprouting. Some loose skins are normal.
Do not store onions with potatoes or other produce items that release moisture.
Keep onions out of direct sunlight and other heat sources.
Cut onions will keep for several days if sealed in plastic bags or containers and refrigerated
In 2010, the U.S. onion industry proactively developed voluntary commodity specific food safety guidelines for the dry bulb onion supply chain. This document serves as guidance for growers and shippers to adhere to best practices and regulations [i.e. Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs)] governing safe vegetable production. Many suppliers regularly test and monitor the aspects of their growing and distribution cycles, and maintain records of those results for filing with the appropriate auditing agencies. This ensures that onions sent fresh for market retail processing are of the highest quality.
The industry supports government efforts to provide a strong food safety regulatory framework. This assures the public appropriate standards are in place and being met by the dry bulb onion supply chain.
It is important to remember dry bulb onions, when removed from the ground, have a non-edible surface that protects the onions and should not be washed in this state. Dry bulb onions are unique. When they have water applied or are washed before the outer skins are removed, it can cause mold and decay to form on the onions. Onions should be kept at optimum storage temperatures that vary as the season progresses, and they should be kept where there is good air circulation.
These guidelines provide recommended food safety practices that are intended to minimize the microbiological hazards associated with dry bulb onions and fresh-cut/frozen onion products. The intent of drafting this document is to provide currently available information on food safety and handling in a manner consistent with existing applicable regulations, standards, and guidelines. The information provided is offered in good faith and believed to be reliable, but is made without warranty, express or implied, as to merchantability, fitness for particular purpose, and/or any other matter. These recommended guidelines were not designed to apply to any specific operation. It is the responsibility of the user of this document to verify that these guidelines are appropriate for its operation.
The publishing trade associations, their members, and contributors do not assume any responsibility for compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and recommend that users consult with their own legal and technical advisors to be sure that their own procedures meet with applicable requirements. No documented food illness outbreaks have been attributed to dry bulb onions at this time. These food safety guidelines are an attempt to be proactive and precautionary.
The guidelines presented in this edition represent a current understanding of conditions and controls that should be considered by every company in the onion supply chain for their respective operations. In some cases, a company may need to consider the guidelines in more than one module. For example, companies involved in Field Packing should also consider the recommendations in the Open Field Production module, and companies involved in Repacking should also consider the recommendations in the Packinghouse module.
In 2004, the FDA published a food safety action plan that specifically requested produce industry leadership in developing the next generation of food safety guidelines for fresh fruits and vegetables. These new commodity-specific guidelines focus on providing guidance that enhances the safe growing, harvesting, processing, distribution, and handling of commodities from the field to the end user. In the last 12 years, the focus of food safety efforts have been on the farm, drying and distribution points, and value-added processing operations. Fruit and vegetable processing operations have developed sophisticated food safety programs largely centered on current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs. Food Safety programs for fresh-cut and value added produce have recently been supplemented by FDA’s 2008 “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables”. As we develop a greater understanding of food safety issues relative to the full spectrum of supply and distribution channels for fruits and vegetables, it has become clear that the next generation of food safety guidelines need to encompass the entire supply chain.
II. Scope and Use of Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Dry Bulb Onion Supply Chain
The scope of this document pertains only to dry bulb onions, and fresh cut/frozen onion products. This document does not include considerations for products commingled with non-produce ingredients (e.g. salad kits which may contain meat, cheese, and/or dressings), although the onions used in such products should be produced, harvested, and otherwise handled in a manner consistent with the recommendations in this document. The distribution chain for dry bulb onions can be complex in that onions may be sold direct or indirect to the buyer; onions are often subject to repacking for size and/or quality. As a result, there is no single distribution chain. The distribution chain may be simple or very complex, with onions being handled by a number of entities prior to being offered for sale to the consumer. The model distribution chain for the purpose of this document provides an overview of only a few of the many paths a dry bulb onion can take prior to the end user. It is the intent of this document to cover all significant aspects of the onion supply chain, from production to delivery to the consumer.
It is best to dry onions at between 25 and 30° Celsius..
In a climate where the temperature varies between -10° Celsius and 15° Celsius it is much cheaper to cool your storage facility to between 0 and 4° Celsius. Less energy is wasted on keeping it cool.
Onion Storage facility available in India
Naturally ventilated structures: In India, the onions are mostly stored in the ventilated storage structures without any control of temperature and relative humidity. The farmers construct the different types of ventilated storage structures based on the capacity required.
Low cost thatched roof bamboo storage structure: This type of storage structure is usually constructed with bamboo framework having the roof made up with sugarcane leaves. This type of storage structure is low cost and easy to construct, but leads up to 42% losses of onion during four months of storage.
Bottom and side ventilated storage structure: This type of structure has a provision of ventilation from bottom and sides. But, still results in increasing the losses up to 46% in four months storage.
Cold storage structure: In such types of storage facilities, the onions are stored at 0-5°C and 60-65% RH that leads to much lesser losses as comparative to ventilated storage structure. The cost of construction and running cost are very high as energy required to maintain the storage facility in the temperature range of 0-5°C is high. The other problems are condensation and require lot of energy and time. The bulbs start sprouting immediately after they are removed from the cold storage.
Design of New Cold Storage
Design of DOGR-cold storageThere is an urgent requirement to develop a well-engineered onion storage structure that can help to maintain the controlled conditions (temperature and relative humidity) that are required to reduce storage losses of onion with low cost of construction and running.
The present invention developed by ICAR-Directorate on Onion and Garlic Research, Pune aims at storing onion bulbs in controlled conditions having proper ventilation that enhances their storage life significantly by utilizing low energy while minimizing sprouting, rotting, and physiological weight loss. The design and development of the cold storage was done under Public Private Partnership mode.