625,000 full trucks. This is the amount of fruit discarded every year in Brazil. 30% of production in the country is not consumed. The index is up to 5% of waste. Here’s how innovation will extend fruits shelf life and contribute to a better planet.
A student of the Federal Institute of Brasilia issued a low cost solution, made from cassava starch and cloves oil. The study was done with bananas and he just immersed them in the solution to increase fruits shelf life in 10 days. The formula, not only prevents the development of microorganisms, but also slows the ripening of the fruit. The next step is to patent the creation and search alternatives to large-scale production.
In the United States, researchers published in the Journal of Food Science an article about membranes made of pectin, chitosan and pullulan to extend the lifetime of strawberries. Researchers of Mexico found that if these membranes are incorporated into sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate, they contribute to the reduction of fruit softening and microbial activity, but preserve the color, flavor and texture of strawberries, and fruits shelf life increased from six to fifteen days. Pectin is naturally present in many fruits, chitosan is part the shells of crustaceans such as shrimp, and the extracellular pullulan provides support, which causes a packing made of these components cheap, and easily produced on a large scale.
Scientists at Washington State University, in the United States, have shown that ultraviolet C (UVC) is effective against pathogens in surface of some fruits such as apples, pears, strawberries and cantaloupe melons. The news is especially promising for organic fruit producers, since it represents an alternative to the commonly used chemical sanitizers. The technique is most effective in e. coli than on Listeria and has inactivated up to 99% of pathogens, but still require deeper studies. This is promising because it is cheap and easy to implement, according to the researchers involved.
In Portugal, Fruta Feia (that means Ugly Fruit, in English), a cooperative of ugly fruits and vegetables trade. 16 tons of fruits and vegetables will no longer become garbage every month. The products that do not meet the requirement of supermarkets, are sold for lower prices. The cooperative has more than 800 members and a waiting list of more than 2000 people.
All of these initiatives are little representative near the total amount of food thrown away, but we gradually notice the advance. We all need to participate as consumers and science, combined with innovation and technology, will make possible to extend fruits shelf life.