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Keywords:

  • antimicrobial;
  • apple;
  • browning;
  • color;
  • firmness;
  • sodium acid sulfate

ABSTRACT:  There are few available compounds that can both control browning and enhance microbial safety of fresh-cut fruits. In the present study, the antibrowning ability of sodium acid sulfate (SAS) on “Granny Smith” apple slices was first investigated in terms of optimum concentration and treatment time. In a separate experiment, the apple slices were treated with water or 3% of SAS, calcium ascorbate, citric acid, or acidified calcium sulfate for 5 min. Total plate count, color, firmness, and tissue damage were assessed during a 21-d storage at 4 °C. Results showed that the efficacy of SAS in inhibiting browning of apple slices increased with increasing concentration. A minimum 3% of SAS was needed to achieve 14 d of shelf life. Firmness was not significantly affected by SAS at 3% or lower concentrations. Antibrowning potential of SAS was similar for all treatment times ranging from 2 to 10 min. However, SAS caused some skin discoloration of apple slices. When cut surface of apple slices were stained with a fluorescein diacetate solution, tissue damage could be observed under a microscope even though visual damage was not evident. Among the antibrowning agents tested, SAS was the most effective in inhibiting browning and microbial growth for the first 14 d. Total plate count of samples treated with 3% SAS was significantly lower than those treated with calcium ascorbate, a commonly used antibrowning agent. Our results suggested that it is possible to use SAS to control browning while inhibiting the growth of microorganisms on the apple slices if the skin damage can be minimized.

Practical Application: Fresh-cut apples have emerged as one of the popular products in restaurants, schools, and food service establishments as more consumers demand fresh, convenient, and nutritious foods. Processing of fresh-cut apples induces mechanical damage to the fruit and exposes apple tissue to air, resulting in the development of undesirable tissue browning. The fresh-cut industry currently uses antibrowning agents to prevent discoloration. However, the antibrowning solutions can become contaminated with human pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes, and washing of apple slices with the contaminated solutions can result in the transfer of pathogens to the product. It would be ideal if an antibrowning compound prevented the proliferation of human pathogens in solutions and minimized the growth of pathogens during storage. The study was conducted to investigate antibrowning and antimicrobial properties of sodium acid sulfate (SAS) in comparison with other common antibrowning agents on Granny Smith apples. Results showed that among the antimicrobial agents we tested, SAS was the most effective in inhibiting browning and microbial growth for 14 d at 4 °C. However, SAS caused some skin discoloration of apple slices. Overall, SAS can potentially be used to inhibit tissue browning while reducing the microbial growth on apple slices. The information is useful for the fresh-cut produce industry to enhance microbial safety of fresh-cut apples while minimizing browning, thus increasing the consumption of the health benefiting fresh fruit.