Abstract: Although sulfiting agents are commonly used in the fresh-cut potato industry, concerns about further regulatory restrictions on sulfite use and consumer fear of sulfite-treated foods have lead to increased research in alternative processing methods. The objective of this study was to determine processing and packaging techniques to achieve a safe and high-quality potato strips with a 4 wk minimum refrigerated shelf life. Potato strips were 1st blanched at low temperature (60 °C) in 0.5% CaCl2 solution for 20 min and then 2nd blanched at high temperature (approximately 98 °C) in water for 5 min. Blanched strips were packaged in a near-aseptic environment or treated in-package with gaseous ozone, sodium metabisulfite (SM) solution, or FIT Fruit and Vegetable Wash™ (Procter and Gamble Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.) and then stored at 7 ± 1 °C for 28 d. No significant difference was observed in lightness of near-aseptically packaged fries, FIT-treated fries, and frozen fries; however, less color difference was determined in near-aseptically packaged fries and FIT-treated fries compared to frozen fries. Gaseous ozone treatment decreased color quality of potato strips, significantly. The highest after-frying peak force was observed in FIT-treated strips. There was no significant difference in oil absorption of refrigerated and unprocessed strips. These results indicate that either near-aseptic packaging or in-package FIT treatment are the better alternatives for blanched potato strips to extend shelf life and maintain quality.
Practical Application: In this study, several processing conditions and packaging methods were evaluated to improve quality and extend shelf life of refrigerated potato strips. Results indicate that the combination of 2-step blanching and near-aseptic packaging was an effective nonchemical processing method, giving 28 d refrigerated shelf life. Similarly, FIT Fruit and Vegetable Wash™ proved to be an effective chemical alternative to sulfites and avoids the allergen concern.