Fruit and Veggie PLU Codes

just another fuji apple

I feel annoyed when apple has small sticker label. Often, after washing and began munching, a small piece of paper clings to my teeth. It is not biggie when I noticed beforehand. I simply scrape it off with knife. However, they are usually small and bear the same shade as the fruit skin. I guess, I just have to inspect carefully and stop being lazy.

just another fuji apple

The fruit label is there for number of reasons.

A small and simple is for brand identification and promotion. If the produce is good. Then you know which to look for the next time you step in the grocery store. If you’re not satisfied. Choose something else then and avoid the err brand.

Black and white labels with stripe or somewhat checkered pattern are bar code and QR code respectively. They are means used by POS machines (point of sale). Do you observe the cashier passing your chosen goods rapidly via dim red light. The product identifications and prices and read and sum up by computer. Otherwise, the cashier, need to look it one by one and manually compute the sum. A tedious task for the company and inconvenience to you and other customers. There are several POS machines and you still need to wait in line. Imagine if this mechanism has not been invented!

There is more. The PLU or Price Look Up code. It tells more about the commodity. Not only price, brand and origin but also the manner it was produced. It is sure very useful to health conscious individuals. If he knows the code meanings, then he can choose organically grown and avoid those label with pesticides.

PLU system is implemented by IFPS, International Federation for Produce Standards. It compose of 4 to 5 digits, but the prefix or the first digit number is all you want to know about.

PLU code starting numbers:

3: Irradiated.
4: Conventionally grown. Sprayed with pesticides.
6: Precut, fruits and vegetables.
8: Genetically modified organisms.
9: Organic.

I think there is only one thing to remember. The prefix 9. Safety of prefix 6 is not clear. Better forget it as well.

More reads:

If You See This Label On A Fruit, DO NOT Buy It At Any Cost. Here’s Why …

34.78 Tons Bananas Gone as Compost

Getting product reject is one of the worse case that might happen. Well, it cannot be helped. Even after all the careful and strict practices, substandard products can only be minimized but not avoided.

If the product under reject status simply does not comform to specifications and no threat to human health. Then, it can be brought back to plant for reprocessing. It is the routine. There is additional processing and transportation cost, but at least, the product is recovered.

It is the case when produce is still in facility or distributed in local. However, it is a completely different story when it is exported abroad. Seminar resource persons often told, when Japan found the imported product is substandard, the whole shipment will be immediately dump to sea. No negotiation and without prior notice. You have just lost a hefty amount of cash. Need to work extra hard to recover. posted on March 26, 2016. About 34.78 tons substandard bananas where destroyed and dumped to landfill in Shenzen City, China. Poor bananas, gone as compost.

Why it was declared as substandard? Test samples was found to have excessive pesticide residue, carbendazim. No exact value was reported. Maybe not all babanas were substandard, but testing batch majority is not industry practice. If one sample is found bad, the whole cargo will be considered bad. It is like a white bond paper with dot on middle. Not every part is dirty but a single dot makes it unclean as a whole.

Carbendazim is a fungicide with many recorded recored health effects. Listing them all here will create a wall of text even I don’t want to read. The maximum pesticide residue limit (MPRL) is 0.1 to 0.7 mg/kg. Use in some countries is unlawful.

The shipment amounted to 33 thoudand USD or a little more than 1.5 million pesos. That was a lot of cost to recover.

A Sad News of Rotting Tomatoes

A glimpse of news, roughly 20 tons of rotting tomatoes was aired via 24 Oras. It was happening in Navarcan, Ilocos Sur. It was said that a certain company, which was not mentioned, ordered too much for the season. The end result, tons and tons of red ripe tomatoes were rotting on delivery trucks. Some were not even picked.

Perhaps the farmers entered to a contract-growing agreement. Manufacturing company pays for the goods before it is even produce. In many cases, they provide the planting materials, fertilizers, necessary training and consultancy services. In return, they can assure steady supply of the commodity they want.

This kind of arrangement is also beneficial to farmers. It is a sure income source without worrying about where to sell. However, their income compared to quantity and quality is usually low.

Tomatoes. Letting them rot on the ground and become fertilizer is the last thing to do. First, the manufacturer who ordered the commodity was responsible for it. They should have converted them to shelf stable product. I am quite sure they have the capability but encountered a little shortcomings.

Next were the farmers. They could have done something about it. Processing them to tomato sauce, paste, juice, whole tomato in can is easy enough. Well, if they know beforehand the situation, they will surely contact other buyers, not process.

We are talking 20 tons here. It is not easy to process them at home levels. What I suggests to them is form a cooperative entity that will be responsible for processing. Any cooperative with a good core team can easily succeed. Base on my own experience, they can quickly source capital/equipment grants from government offices and NGO’s.

They should have not let the tomatoes rot even if the contractor had already pay the cost.

Rambutan Seeds, containing oleic acid and arachidic acid

Our habit! Crack rambutan open. Suck in the mouth watering flesh, then threw away the seeds and peels.

Imagine it on industry level, canning. They are simply discarded as waste and treated as of no economic value. What a huge waste of resource! Of course, dumped organic materials eventually decay and become fertilizer. However, we want something more than that. Something we can sell for more profit.

Jirawat Eiamwat et. al. (2014) conducted a study on possible toxicity of rambutan seeds. Why?

Taken from their manuscript:

It is a potential source of edible fat, 4-9% of the whole fruit and 14 to 41% of the seed.

Rambutan seed fat is semi-solid at room temperature (25-27°C) and characterized by high levels of oleic acid between 36.8 and 42.0% and arachidic acid between 34.3 and 36.4% (Harahap et al., 2011; Sirisompong et al., 2011; Solís-Fuentes et al., 2010; Yanty et al., 2013). Due to the physical and chemical characteristics, rambutan seed fat may provide an economic advantage with possible utilization in food and cosmetics.

Take that..

Arachidic acid is for production of detergents, photographic materials and lubricants. Oleic acid is a healthy oil known to lower cholesterol levels. It maybe used as salad dressings, on baking and as replacement of animal fat.

The fear of toxicity fear us from using any unproven commodity, especially if it is not a common food for the man. Rambutan is delicious, perfectly edible and safe but we are unsure about the seeds. The usual practice is outright throw. Another example is the guyabano fruit. The flesh is perfectly safe but the seeds in known to have toxic substances. Thanks to its hard shell. I never affects us on accidental ingestion.

Is rambutan seed toxic?

According to their study results, fat and oils are not lethal to rats at levels of 5,000 mg/kg body weight.

Food technologists and Chemists! Grab the opportunity before somebody else do.

Toxicity studies on rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) seed fat and oil extracts using acute oral, dermal and irritation assays

Jirawat Eiamwat, Sareeya Reungpatthanaphong, Saranya Laovitthayanggoon, Tuanta Sematong, Paramee Pengprecha, Benjaporn Tiensong, Patthanant Natpinit