Logistical challenges in the storage and transport of fruit and vegetables

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Properly storing and transporting fruits and vegetables is a challenge that requires knowledge and good practices on the part of a large number of professionals. Maintaining the cold chain may be the most visible aspect of this, but it is not the only one. It is enough to remember the safety standards in force for this type of perishable products.

Hygiene and signaling measures

Both storage and transport of fruits and vegetables involve biological, chemical (natural or added) and physical hazards, which makes this type of merchandise a special cargo. The standard operating procedures for sanitizing should be, in each company, those contained in the Operations Manual, included in the Food Safety Program.

The records of these operations manuals will be those that compile the details of when each intervention by the operators has taken place. Internal regulations should cover aspects related to operator health and hygiene, the regularity of hand washing and the use of the correct clothing and equipment.

Another key point in warehousing is the indication of the different actions to be carried out at each point, such as the use of masks from one place, hand washing before entering a food handling room or other actions around the loading and shipping points of refrigerated goods.

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Maintenance of the cold chain

Preventing the proliferation of microorganisms that could be harmful to human health is the main objective of maintaining the cold chain. This must be maintained from the origin, i.e., the collection of the product from the field or greenhouse, to the delivery for marketing at the last point of destination.

As for transport vehicles, those used for this type of cargo are equipped with mechanical cold production devices that maintain temperatures ranging from 12 to -20 degrees Celsius. Vegetables and fruits are generally transported at around 3ºC, which prevents the proliferation of microorganisms, but without reaching the freezing point.

The vehicles for this transport are equipped with devices that maintain temperatures between 12 and -20 degrees Celsius. Vegetables and fruits are transported at around 3ºC

Packaging also plays a decisive role in helping to maintain the food cold chain. They must allow the two processes that occur in fruit and vegetables after harvesting to continue, both respiration (through oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide emission) and transpiration. They must also comply with current regulations regarding transport materials.

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Transport conditions

Humidity, temperature, light, air and insulation are the 5 points, each with different parameters, that must comply with current regulations. Any alteration in these parameters affects the products; too much humidity can favor the proliferation of bacteria or an excess of light can damage the food, as can an impact between several pieces.

Incorrect stowage of raw fruit and vegetables can lead to the introduction of microorganisms harmful to humans into the food. This sometimes occurs through contact with incidental contaminants present on different surfaces, or through contact with condensation water used for cooling.

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José Ángel Sanz