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Temperature abuse timing affects the rate of quality deterioration of commercially packaged ready-to-eat baby spinach. Part I: Sensory analysis and selected quality attributes

Liping Kou, Yaguang Luo, Eunhee Park, Ellen R. Turner, Anna Barczak, Wayne M. Jurick
Postharvest biology and technology 2014 v.91 pp. 96-103
baby vegetables, color, electrolytes, food packaging, food spoilage, fresh-cut foods, gases, headspace analysis, off odors, ready-to-eat foods, sensory evaluation, shelf life, spinach, storage temperature, texture
Temperature abuse of fresh-cut products occurs routinely during transport and retail store display. However, the stage of product shelf life during temperature abuse and its impact on sensory attributes have not been studied. This study evaluated the effect of temperature abuse occurring immediately after processing and late in shelf life through measurements of sensory attributes, and membrane integrity of commercially packaged ready-to-eat baby spinach. The packaged products were received within 2 days of processing. Samples subject to early temperature abuse were immediately placed at 1, 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20°C storage upon arrival, and those subject to late temperature abuse were stored at 1°C for six days, and then transferred to 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20°C storage. Package headspace gas composition, in-package visual appeal, purchase intent, product color, off-odor, decay, texture, overall quality, and tissue electrolyte leakage were evaluated every 1–2 day up to 16 day total. Results indicate that when the product temperature is maintained at 1–4°C, the quality of commercially packaged baby spinach can be retained for up to 18 days post-processing. However, storage temperature of 8°C or above, significantly (P<0.001) shortened product shelf life as exhibited by accelerated tissue electrolyte leakage, product yellowing, decay and off-odor development. Most importantly, the product's shelf life stage significantly affected its response to temperature. Quality deterioration proceeded more rapidly when temperature abuse occurred in late as opposed to early shelf life stage.