Fresh produce quality control is an essential process in the food industry that ensures that the fruits and vegetables consumers buy meet certain standards of safety, freshness, and quality. It involves a series of tests and inspections, starting from the farm, through transportation, storage, and distribution, to the retail market. The main goal of quality control for fresh produce is to minimize the risk of foodborne illness and to ensure that consumers receive fresh, healthy, and nutritious fruits and vegetables.
There are different methods of quality control for fresh produce, depending on the type of produce, the intended market, and the standards set by regulatory agencies. Some of the common quality control methods for fresh produce include visual inspection, sensory evaluation, physical and chemical tests, and microbiological analysis.
Visual inspection is the most basic and widely used method of quality control for fresh produce. It involves visually examining the fruits and vegetables for external defects such as bruises, cuts, discoloration, and other physical damage that may indicate poor quality or spoilage. This method is usually performed at the farm or during transportation and storage to identify damaged or defective produce that needs to be discarded or separated from the good produce.
Sensory evaluation is another method of quality control for fresh produce that involves using the human senses of taste, smell, touch, and sight to assess the quality and freshness of the produce. This method is usually performed by trained sensory panelists who are trained to detect subtle changes in the appearance, texture, and flavor of the produce. Sensory evaluation is particularly useful in assessing the ripeness of fruits and vegetables, as well as identifying off-flavors or odors that may indicate spoilage.
Physical and chemical tests are more advanced methods of quality control for fresh produce that involve using laboratory equipment to measure certain physical and chemical parameters that are indicative of quality and freshness. For example, the sugar content, pH level, and moisture content of fruits and vegetables can be measured to determine their ripeness, sweetness, and freshness. Other physical and chemical tests may include colorimetry, titration, and spectrophotometry, among others.
Microbiological analysis is another important method of quality control for fresh produce that involves testing for the presence of harmful microorganisms that can cause foodborne illness. This method is particularly important for produce that is consumed raw or minimally processed, such as leafy greens, berries, and sprouts, which are more susceptible to contamination by pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. Microbiological analysis involves taking samples of the produce and testing them in a laboratory for the presence of harmful bacteria using methods such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), culture-based methods, and immunological assays.
In addition to these methods, there are also various quality control standards and certifications that fresh produce can undergo to ensure their safety and quality. For example, the GlobalGAP certification is a voluntary standard that sets criteria for good agricultural practices, including the use of safe and sustainable farming practices, environmental protection, and traceability. Other certifications may include organic certification, fair trade certification, and non-GMO certification, among others.
Quality control for fresh produce is not just limited to testing and inspections; it also involves implementing good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent contamination and maintain quality throughout the production process. This may include measures such as proper hand washing, sanitation, pest control, and temperature control, among others.
Overall, quality control for fresh produce is a complex and multifaceted process that involves a range of methods and techniques to ensure the safety, freshness, and quality of fruits and vegetables. By implementing rigorous quality control measures, the food industry can minimize the risk of foodborne illness and ensure that consumers receive fresh and nutritious produce that meets their expectations.
Fresh produce quality control app
Good fresh produce quality control is integrated into every facet of the farmsoft / Producepak food quality control app.
The Producepak / FARMSOFT suite is a comprehensive and highly flexible food quality control software solution for food manufacturers and fresh produce processors and packers. Configure quality control tests for specific clients, products, suppliers, employees, and more. Configure quality control tests for simple pass or fail tests, weighted score tests where each failure adds or deducts a value from the total score, percentage of sampled defect, and range value tests. Unlimited categories can be configured to make large tests more user friendly.
Food Quality Control Software
Quality control for fresh produce
Flexible food quality control software for quality control officers.
Quality control officers can easily capture photos and documents and link them to quality tests. These photos will be visible when looking at the quality control test results. This information can be very useful when dealing with suppliers that incorrectly state the quality of fresh produce or raw materials, or customers attempting to reject fresh produce because they have ordered too much. FarmSoft food quality control software also allows up to five quality control management staff to be sent emails containing the quality results of any tests that fail. This quality alert system allows management to make corrective actions or manufacturing decisions rapidly and increases communication between quality control officers and management.
Food Quality Control Software
Quality control for fresh produce
Flexible configuration of criteria, categories and tests via FarmSoft food quality control software
Comprehensive food quality control software.
The FarmSoft suite is an integrated solution for fresh produce processors and food manufactures to manage every part of business operations (excluding finance and payroll – although FarmSoft can be integrated with external accounting and finance packages). Including inventory, processing and manufacturing, traceability, cost control, labor cost capture and monitoring, best manufacturing practice / good manufacturing practices, FarmSoft delivers comprehensive business management from the ordering of raw materials, through the entire quality, inventory, manufacturing, sales orders, sales, and dispatch processes.
Start improving your businesses traceability today with the FarmSoft food traceability software. Talk to a consultant for free.
FarmSoft food quality control software delivers higher quality food manufacturing.
Food quality control software for progressive food manufacturing enterprises.
FarmSoft food food quality control software is used by award winning food manufacturers and processors world wide. The FarmSoft food quality control software delivers a comprehensive solution that starts from ordering of raw materials such as fresh produce, ingredients, or additives, and ends after sale. This holistic business management approach helps food manufacturers deliver maximum efficiency and traceability while reducing waste and financial risk exposure due to reduced batch sizes, and smaller recall windows.
Reference: Less fresh produce waste more traceability Accurate inventory shipping Apple packing, pear packing, citrus packing.
FarmSoft provides cutting edge fresh produce quality control software QC, which guides employees through the best manufacturing and quality control process for fresh produce fruit and vegetable packing QC, processing and manufacturing.
FarmSoft Fresh Produce Quality Control QC can force fresh produce (and other inventory) to be “placed on hold” and automatically alert senior quality officers that a further inspection needs to be made (up to five quality control officers can be alerted for each individual Quality Program defined in FarmSoft Quality Control). During the additional inspection, the quality control officer can reassign the class and grade, product features, storage location, and make the produce available for packing, send to processing, quality rejection process, or sales. You can even integrate your fresh produce quality control with FarmSoft’s Farm Quality Control QC systems.
Fresh Produce Quality Control for food safety:
Configure unlimited quality control programs, including specific programs for specific produce, variety, customer, or finished product
Tests can be for almost anything, such as testing incoming produce, outgoing produce, pre pack, pre graded produce, Packhouse cleanliness test, employee performance, task quality control etc. You can define the subject (thing) that you are testing
Each test can be a pass/fail, or range style test (ie: where results must be within the range of two numbers, or above or below a number)
Automatically force produce to be put on hold if selected tests fail
Manually put produce on hold for further inspection
On screen alerts for produce that has been put on hold
Set the number of tests to make the entire test program fail
Set individual tests to make an entire test program fail
Set the number of tests in a Category to make the entire test program fail
Each quality control program can be configured to have unlimited categories
Each quality control category can have unlimited tests
Each quality control program can record important details such as version, manager, and quality control documentation can be directly attached to the quality control program
Configure unlimited “classes” that can be assigned to produce
Configure unlimited “features” that can be assigned to produce. There can be four sets of features, for example color, grade, size, pack, etc.
Flexible fresh produce quality control configuration allows you to specify which quality tests require information such as:
Fresh Produce Quality Control Software for external businesses:
Walmart Quality Control
Woolworths Quality Control
Coles Quality Control
Aldi Quality Control
Tesco Quality Control
Marks and Spencer Quality Control
ASDA Quality Control
Sainsbury’s Quality Control
Costco Quality Control
PriceSmart Foods Quality Control
Loblaw Quality Control
Metro Quality Control
Safeway Quality Control
Kroger Quality Control
Whole Foods Quality Control
Wegmans Quality Control
Save Mart Quality Control
Shoprite Quality Control
Pick ‘n Pay Quality Control
Massmart Quality Control
Research And Implementation Of Safe Production And Quality Traceability System For Fruit
The main challenge in implementing the traceability process was ensuring compliance with the required MRL levels in order to deliver safe produce to supermarkets participating in the RAMA program. In addition, suppliers had to guarantee that only registered crop protection products were being used and good agricultural practices applied. Last but not least, there was the need to educate the fruit and veg growers so that they understood the program's necessity and requirements.
"The first step in capturing data for the new laws begins with obtaining the field data from the orchard or farm. Mobile scanning and printing allows the workers to gather the data needed right in the field as the product is being picked and loaded into the transport bins," says Bruce Stubbs, Director, Industry Marketing at Intermec Technologies.
Place labels on two sides of the pallet. Labels should be applied on two sides of a pallet (i.e., two sets of labels must be printed and applied to each pallet). If multiple Hybrid Pallet Labels are required to identify all the unique cases on a pallet, the labels should be stacked vertically (i.e. one above the other,not side by side).If shipping an over-wrapped pallet (e.g., wrapped in plastic), the same guidance as above applies; it is recommended the label be placed on top of the plastic, not underneath. This will ensure a better scan rate of the bar codes.
Fresh produce quality Control challenges for blueberry exporters and retailers
The global blueberry market has grown 40% since 2012, and is projected to surpass 1.4 billion pounds in 2017. Today, blueberries are grown in both hemispheres to satisfy the year-round demand of top consumer markets for this fruit, including the US, the UK, mainland Western Europe, and China. As newer ambitious blueberry exporters emerge on the market (Peru, Mexico, and Morocco among them), well-established producers, such as Chile and especially Argentina, are starting to feel the squeeze. With the increasing competition, product quality remains paramount for companies that wish to survive and succeed in this consolidating and rapidly maturing market.
“Advances in logistics, storage, and packaging solutions have drastically increased the shelf life of soft fruit in the last few decades,”. says Ignacio Santibanez, General Manager of AI PIA “Still, in a world where produce can travel for thousands of miles from where it was picked, it can be challenging to ensure optimal quality and freshness at every stage from farm to consumer. Blueberries in particular are a very sensitive product, and require close monitoring every step of the way.”
During the 2016-2017 harvesting season, AI PIA inspected close to 100,000 samples off fresh blueberries for growers, exporters and importers. The inspections found that only 43% of the fruit could be categorized as “good” based on the applicable quality standards. The “excellent” quality category remained largely out of reach, with less than 1% of all blueberries inspected making the cut. Some 44% of fruit were classed as “fair,” while “poor” and “bad” quality accounted for 11% and 1.7%, respectively.
Variable Harvesting Conditions
Blueberry harvest often coincides with periods of high heat and humidity – both factors that contribute to quick spoilage of freshly-harvested fruit. High temperatures during blueberry harvest season promote ripening, but overripe blueberries are very prone to damage. Wet berries, in turn, are highly susceptible to disease organisms. While blueberry producers strive to ensure optimal harvesting conditions, outdoor farms are highly weather-dependent, as was shown by the 2016-2017 harvesting season in the Southern Hemisphere, when warmer temperatures resulted in an early harvest, making for a difficult season for growers and exporters alike.
The Need for Prompt and Effective Cooling
Among the blueberries inspected during the 2016-2017 harvest season, PIA had to categorize fruit as “fair” or lower in 24.3% of cases due to decay, and 16.3%, due to mold. The most likely reason behind mold and decay in soft fruit is insufficiently fast or effective post-harvest cooling. Warm, wet, or damaged blueberries create ideal conditions for decay organisms. Cooler temperatures dramatically decrease the rate of decay and correspondingly increase the blueberries’ shelf life and transportability.
An unbroken cold chain during transportation is crucial for preserving blueberry quality in transit. Last import season, according to AI PIA data, two-thirds of blueberry shipments to the US, the UK, China, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands travelled by sea, while roughly a quarter was shipped by plane. Air shipping allows growers to sell their produce within 48 hours of harvest, but it is not without risk. The whole shipment may be compromised if berries spend as little as 15 minutes sitting in the sun, which may happen while the truck navigates the tarmac. Another issue is that fresh produce is often shipped on passenger planes, which carries its own risks. If a passenger makes a last-minute decision to bring a dog, the temperature in the plane hold would be increased – necessary for the animal’s survival, but detrimental for the produce cargo.
Packaging and Presentation
Unlike many other fruit, packaging options are rather limited for blueberries. They are usually field-packed, and any additional handling is discouraged, so their very first container must provide sufficient protection and ventilation, and be suitable at lower temperatures during transportation. Producers experiment with different materials (such as replacing plastic with biodegradable materials) and extra features (such as absorbing and cushioning fruit pads), but shape-wise, the clamshell remains the industry standard. While it meets the functional criteria, this packaging does not lend itself to many marketing tricks, and manufacturers have to rely on the visible product to do most of the selling. This underlines the importance of high quality and good visual presentation for blueberries, as consumers usually make the decision based solely on the fruit’s appearance.
“For a perishable product like blueberries, every step of the supply chain is riddled with vulnerabilities, and a single mistake can be costly,” says Ignacio Santibanez of AI PIA. “We check the fruit’s condition and temperature along the entire way between farm and supermarket shelf. As with most products, the final approval or rejection is up to the consumer – but by safeguarding quality at each critical stage, we do everything to tip the scales in our clients’ favor.”
Color and quality control in fresh produce: Traditional solutions vs AI
Fresh fruits and vegetables are a critical ingredient for food companies that make anything from juices and smoothies through to sauces, pastes, and pulps.
The characteristics of fresh produce differ by variety and season, unlike with many other raw materials. This variability creates challenges in the manufacturing process, and in delivering the quality customers expect in finished products.
Measuring quality in fresh produce
Defining fresh produce quality parameters and their measurement for acceptance is more complex compared to other raw ingredients. Uniformity, ripeness, color, gloss, and absence of defects are just some of the components of quality. Evaluating them can be subjective — in other words, done manually — or objective, when handled by a machine.
But the visual appearance of fruits and vegetables is universally accepted as the first quality determinant. Color is an important parameter because it directly affects the appearance of the final product. If there is color variance in fresh produce, corrective actions in the manufacturing process become necessary to ensure the perception of quality in the final product.
In short, failure to meet fresh produce color criteria can adversely impact cost and quality in the finished product. This applies to a wide range of food industry items.
Obstacles to identifying color
The biggest challenge to determining the color of fresh produce is heterogeneity. A fruit or vegetable may not be one color, but different shades of the same color. A single piece could also feature different colors blending into one another.
A good example here is tomatoes. A single tomato may have red, orange, and light green colors and still be acceptable as an ingredient. Another example is apples, which may have different shades of red depending on variety.
The color heterogeneity in fresh produce makes it difficult to set and measure acceptable criteria. Right now, the food industry utilizes a battery of equipment to measure color in both ingredients and finished products. Most often, this equipment includes colorimeters, spectrophotometers, and image-based color identification machines.
Though made for myriad food (and non-food) ingredients, these traditional instruments mostly fail in measuring acceptable color criteria for fresh produce:
Colorimeters are best for gauging homogeneous solutions or solids. When faced with heterogeneous solids they, at best, can indicate an average color. This often results in inaccurate identification.
Spectrophotometers are most appropriate for input in a liquid medium and for homogeneous products.
Equipment that processes high-quality images in a controlled environment appears to be the ideal choice, at least among existing solutions for fresh produce. These go beyond average color measurement to offer percentage composition of colors.
The latter can detect, for example, that a displayed tomato is 80% red and 20% light green. But when shown five separate tomatoes together, where one appears light green and the other four red, such instruments fail. Since the combined composition is still 80% red and 20% light green, this will often lead to the one light green tomato getting accepted erroneously.
In the last few years, artificial intelligence (AI) has widened the lead it has over all prior technologies for accuracy in visual identification of fresh produce. It has also surprised us in the plethora of tasks it excels at within image processing. It has beaten previous benchmarks in object detection, classification, and segmentation.
To explain these three tasks, let’s take the example of tomatoes again:
Object detection is the ability to identify different objects in an image. In this case, all the individual tomatoes that are presented.
Classification is the ability to organize an image into one of many classes. In this instance, the classification of a tomato can be 80% red, 30% red, and so on.
Segmentation is the ability to distinguish the composition of an image into the different features that are present in it. For example, the tomatoes, the table they are on, the piece of paper next to them, and so on.
Two factors enable AI to achieve excellence in these tasks. First, a large dataset of images labeled to meet acceptable and non-acceptable parameters of fresh produce. Second, sizable amounts of computing ability in the form of powerful microprocessors.
In a nutshell, AI fixes the issues riddling color for fresh produce accurately and much better than ever before.
Advantages of AI
AI-based solutions have the unerring ability to eliminate color issues in a heterogeneous scenario and color acceptance criteria for almost all fresh produce. But that’s not the sole benefit. It can do so in a wide variety of lighting conditions.
Their characteristics vary by variety and season, which creates challenges in the manufacturing process.
Measuring quality in fresh produce
Advantages of AI in identifying color
AI-based solutions have the unerring ability to eliminate color issues in a heterogeneous scenario and color acceptance criteria for almost all fresh produce. But, that’s not the sole benefit. It can do so in a wide variety of lighting.
On top of it, with cloud processing, the solution becomes highly portable. It means one can conveniently access the powerful technology through a handheld device like a mobile phone.
Also, cloud computing allows easy integration of the solution with the rest of the user’s applications such as mail and messaging. These qualities make AI-based solutions far lighter on a user's pocket than the bulky, traditional equipment used for color identification.
Fresh produce quality control app
Berries and cherries: blueberries, blackberries, cherries
Tropical fruits: mangos, pineapples, asparagus, kiwi
Traditional fruits: apples, pears, avocados, grapes, lemon, orange, clementines
Other fruits and vegetables: lettuce, tomatoes, chilies
Beans, corn, nuts, grains, cereals
Fresh produce quality control app
Solutions for Produce SafetyFresh produce quality control app
Quality Control Tailored for the Produce Industry
Quality check (color, maturity, firmness, shape)
Weight and diameter check
Defects check (including amount and seriousness of defects)
Fresh produce quality control app
Fresh produce quality control app
Produce Supplier Audits
Hygiene audits (GHP)
Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)
Food Safety Audits & Certification
QIMA Helps Monitor Every Step of the Produce Supply Chain
Condition of inventory: ensure that products can be shipped safely
Temperature control: check and monitor post-harvest temperature and storage conditions for your produce
Orders supervision: to help you sort and dispatch your produce orders
We offer detailed inspection reports
Our team of experts is committed to writing up same-day inspection reports to help organisations make well-informed and quick decisions about their supply chain. Global Inspection Managing also offers clients an online tracker that provides real-time data about a given supply chain. With this data, clients can monitor trends and benchmark certain suppliers.