Imagine you’re flying a plane full of babies. Initially, they’re all sleeping peacefully. But if one wakes up, they’ll start crying. That will e

Ethylene in the food supply chain

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2022-05-15 03:00:05

Imagine you’re flying a plane full of babies. Initially, they’re all sleeping peacefully. But if one wakes up, they’ll start crying. That will eventually wake up some of the neighbors who will also start crying, and soon your plane will be an unhappy place. In this situation, you’d try very hard to keep all the babies asleep.

Last time we talked about ethylene. This is the gaseous plant hormone responsible for one bad apple spoils the bunch (true) and put avocados in a paper bag with bananas to ripen (also true) and many other less-known phenomena. Given ethylene’s importance, the agricultural industry has found many ways to manipulate it to make stuff better looking, better tasting, or easier to transport.

Many climacteric fruits are picked unripe and then exposed to gaseous ethylene just before being sold. This is done to reduce spoilage and because it’s easier to pick and transport unripe fruit. It’s common for avocados, bananas, mangoes, honeydew, kiwi, mango, and tomatoes (Saltveit, 1999). (Sadly, I couldn’t find any numbers for how common.)

Although ethylene’s effects can triggered with concentrations like 0.1 ppm, it’s common to concentrations that are 100 or even 10,000 times higher. The usual procedure is to expose the fruit at a moderate temperature for between half a day and 3 days.

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