Quality sorting and culling of fresh produce is performed to separate damaged or decayed produce from undamaged sound produce. The principal motivation for such sorting is financial. Consumers are not likely to purchase fresh fruit or vegetables that are noticeably damaged or decayed. Produce destined for further processing, rather than fresh consumption, will also demand a better price if quality is higher. Poor-quality produce will result in higher processing cost, greater losses, and shorter shelf life of the final product.
Although the principal motivation for quality sorting may be financial, another more important motivation should be the desire to provide a safe and nutritious product. Damaged and decayed produce can have substantially higher levels of microorganisms than undamaged sound produce. Storing or processing such damaged and decayed produce with sound produce may result in the spread of spoilage organisms, resulting in further losses and lower quality of finished products. In addition, foodborne pathogens can find greater ingress in damaged and decayed produce, resulting in a significant increase in the risk of foodborne illnesses. Consequently, the prompt removal of unsound produce will impact not only on costs, but the safety of the product as well, be that fresh or processed produce.
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