Pre-harvest and post-harvest factors affecting ascorbic acid and carotenoid content in fruits and vegetables

R.B. Jones, D. Stefanelli, R.B. Tomkins
In the past 20 years there has been a newly generated interest in phytonutrients, including vitamins contained in fruits and vegetables and their role in human health, and the potential economic advantages of food products based on elevated levels of health-promoting phytonutrients. It has also resulted in a more rigorous regulatory environment that in many developed countries now strictly controls how foods are marketed. At present this means that health marketing using the word LSQUOantioxidantsRSQUO is effectively banned in Europe, the USA and Australia/NZ. The reasons for this situation will be discussed. As horticultural products with potentially beneficial levels of flavonoids cannot currently be marketed on this quality, this review will concentrate on two vitamins commonly found in fruits and vegetables that can be effectively used in health related marketing: L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and pro-vitamin A carotenoids. Vitamin C content tends to increase during crop production if plant reactive oxygen species (ROS) rise due to high light or stress, and can also be significantly influenced by low temperatures, N and K nutrition and restricted irrigation. Vitamin A carotenoids are also significantly affected by NPK nutrition, but results vary between fruit and vegetable types. Harvest maturity, postharvest conditions, treatments, processing and cooking have the most profound effect on vitamin C and vitamin A contents, most commonly causing a decrease. Despite the strict regulatory environment currently in place regarding the use of antioxidant nutrient content claims, there is considerable scope to optimise vitamin C and vitamin A contents in selected fruits and vegetables. This can be achieved with judicious use of nutrition and irrigation during production, correct harvest maturity, and the most appropriate postharvest storage, processing and cooking methods.
Jones, R.B., Stefanelli, D. and Tomkins, R.B. (2015). Pre-harvest and post-harvest factors affecting ascorbic acid and carotenoid content in fruits and vegetables. Acta Hortic. 1106, 31-42
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2015.1106.6
production, postharvest, fruit, vegetable, vitamin C, vitamin A, carotenoids

Acta Horticulturae