Handling apples

Fruit, vegetables and flowers are living and sensitive products. When working with fresh products like apples, it is essential to realise the importance of handling products with care. This prevents food and quality losses and profit losses.

Tenderly treating the apple. Photo by New Africa/Shutterstock.com

Handle with care

Whether it is in the orchard, in the cold store, in the supermarket or at home, apples should be treated delicately. All kinds of damage can occur. This may be directly visible, but may also become visible after a couple of days or months. When an apple falls or when it bumps against a tough surface, it will easily show bruises or skin damage. Also high pressure or weight, for instance from other apples, will cause bruises. Bruising of an apple results in ethylene production. This may accelerate the ripening of the fruit and may cause even more loss then only the bruised fruit. Damaged fruits may be an entrance point for pathogens, creating even more problems. Handling apples with care greatly decreases the losses in the chain. Therefore, companies often follow standardized procedures to make sure damage caused by handling is prevented.

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Timelapse bruise development

The video shows a timelapse of bruise development in an apple. A bruise may be caused when an apple is not handled with care, however, it is only visible later in the supply chain.

Attention points in the chain

  1. Hand picking one apple. Photo by WFBR

    1. Take only a few apples at a time

    At harvest, but also when sorting or packing manually, only a few apples at a time should be in your hands. Having more of them may increase the risk of falling or bumping against each other.
  2. Hand tossing an apple. Photo by Aleksandr Rudoj/Shutterstock.com

    2. Don't throw with apples

    Apples should not be thrown in a bin or box, but placed carefully. This counts for placing apples in baskets at harvest, or when packing apples after sorting/grading.
  3. Gloves to cover your nails. Photo by WFBR

    3. Make sure nails are cut or covered

    Nails can easily damage the skin of apples. Using gloves or having short nails helps here.
"Poor handling of apples during harvest is not always directly visible on the fruit, but after months of storage it may result in losses of 5-10%"
Hans de Wild, Postharvest consultant, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research