Minimizing quality deterioration of fresh-cut baby spinach by retrofitting refrigerated retail display cases with doors

Y. Xie, J.K. Brecht, C. Abrahan, Y. Luo, E. Bornhorst
We previously demonstrated in an in-store setting that optimum and uniform storage temperature for whole and fresh-cut produce was achieved by installing doors on existing open, refrigerated display cases. We further investigated physical, chemical, and microbiological quality of fresh-cut baby spinach after 5 d of storage at 1 or 4°C (simulating temperatures previously measured in closed-door and open displays), and also after an additional 3 d at 5°C (representing home refrigerator temperature). Quality evaluations were performed on day 5 and day 8, with 7 and 3 unique sample replications, respectively. Baby spinach packages stored in a simulated closed case for 5 d had higher O2 and lower CO2 headspace concentrations, suggesting reduced respiration rate. Despite no significant differences in total aerobic bacterial count, yeast and mold counts were elevated on day 5 for baby spinach stored in a simulated open display case. Closed case spinach leaves were darker green color with greater hue angle after 5 d. Electrolyte leakage and ascorbic acid content were not affected by closed or open case storage and panelists did not perceive differences in sensory attributes on day 5. After an additional 3 d of storage in simulated home refrigerator conditions, headspace CO2 remained lower and electrolyte leakage was reduced in closed case samples. Headspace O2, color, and microbial load variations were diminished, while ascorbic acid content remained unaffected by case treatment. Differences in off-odor and discoloration were detected by panelists on day 8, and overall quality and purchase intent were scored lower for samples from the open case treatment. In conclusion, a 3°C higher temperature in open display cases was associated with faster quality deterioration of baby spinach that can be perceived by customers. This provides strong incentive for retailers to modify displays with doors, to better retain produce quality and prolong shelf-life.
Xie, Y., Brecht, J.K., Abrahan, C., Luo, Y. and Bornhorst, E. (2021). Minimizing quality deterioration of fresh-cut baby spinach by retrofitting refrigerated retail display cases with doors. Acta Hortic. 1319, 59-66
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2021.1319.7
Spinacia oleracea, ascorbic acid, color, electrolyte leakage, MAP, microbiology, respiration, sensory

Acta Horticulturae