You can become a foodservice guru after reading Markon’s extensive list of industry terms and definitions. Wondering what cold chain management means? Need to know what qualifies as organic? Never heard of Cyclospora? Here is your cheat sheet for many topics pertinent to fresh produce.
Black heart is a quality problem that affects potatoes when they are deprived of oxygen. High temperatures and excess water in the soil contribute to this condition in the field. Potatoes can also develop this problem in transit or storage if they are exposed to very hot or very cold temperatures.
Caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani, bottom rot is identified by sunken, reddish-brown spots on the bottom of plants, most notably, lettuces. If the fungus only affects the outer leaves they can be trimmed, but if it has invaded whole heads, they cannot be used. The spots most typically occur when leaves touch soil that contains the fungus and when temperatures are high and air is humid.
Bracketing is a cosmetic defect caused by inconsistent growth in broccoli plants. It typically occurs when there are large swings in temperatures, resulting in growth being stopped then started rapidly. The biggest problem caused by bracketing is that it prevents crowns from being trimmed to a short- or Asian-cut crown length. If the crown were to be cut, the florets would fall off the stalk.
The Brix scale was named for a 19th century German named A.F.W. Brix. This system is used in the United States to measure the sugar content in fruit, most notably citrus, grapes, and melons.
A pathogen that invades the lining of the small intestine. C. jejuni is the most commonly-isolated species.
Most at risk
How is it spread?
Cold chain management is the control and maintenance of storage temperatures to prevent product deterioration and bacteria growth, as well as to prolong shelf-life; it is the management of the real-time series of events that occur from seed to fork.
The cold chain combines all of the links between transport and storage
In 1914, the Public Health Service first used coliform as a general name to indicate members of the Enterobacteriaceae family, a broad class of indicator microorganisms. Coliforms can be used to show the presence of more dangerous disease-causing bacteria or viruses. They can also be found in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals, feces, water, soil, and vegetation.
Coliforms are normally present on raw plants; positive testing for them does not necessarily indicate the produce has come in contact with feces.
Are All Coliforms Dangerous?
How are they spread?
Fresh-run onions exhibit light color and flaky skin; expect typical cured storage-onion characteristics to include globe-like shape, firm texture, dark skin, and single centers.
What is Cyclospora?
A one-celled parasite spread by water or food contaminated with infected feces.
Most at risk
How is it Spread?
A double center is a term used when two onions grow from one root. This is typically undesirable in the commercial market, as it makes it more difficult to cut onions into rings or consistent slices.
What is E. Coli?
Most at risk
How is it Spread?
Enterococcus are naturally occurring intestinal bacteria that can be found in humans, animals, plants, soil, and water. It is one of the most commonly occurring hospital-acquired illnesses, but can also be a foodborne illness. Enterococcus faecalis is the most commonly-isolated species.
Most at risk
How is it spread?
Usually used in reference to lettuces, epidermal peeling is a quality defect caused by freezing temperatures. The outer layer of the leaf peels away, much like chapped lips. It is a purely cosmetic defect and does not affect flavor or quality.
What is it?
Ethylene is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced naturally by fruits and vegetables. It can increase the pace at which fresh produce ripens, shortening shelf-life.
Some of the highest producers of ethylene are apples, avocados (ripe), bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, pears, and stone fruit.
Almost all fresh produce is at least somewhat sensitive to ethylene gas. In storage, be sure to isolate the high producers from the rest of your fruits and vegetables.
Food security refers to the monitoring and inspection of our food supply to reduce its vulnerability to targeted attacks. Areas covered include domestic production, imports, and distribution. Additional regulation of these activities is currently under consideration.
What is Bioterrorism?
The Department of Homeland Security
What are Genetically Modified Organisms?
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any item that has been altered at the molecular level.
In agriculture, GMOs are typically created in order to boost yields, improve quality, and repel insects.
What are GAPs?
Good Agricultural Practices, or GAPs, are the FDA guidelines for minimum sanitary and safety requirements to be used while growing and harvesting crops. These requirements include the areas of:
For example, before a farmer begins planting crops, he/she will create a blueprint of the specific practices needed to maintain the safety of all those connected with the operation, especially the end-user.
What are GMPs?
Good Manufacturing Practices, or GMPs, are the minimum sanitary and processing requirements issued by the FDA (under section 520 of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act) that a company must uphold.
Within the foodservice industry these typically consist of maintaining:
Most foodservice industry companies use GMPs to write more specific Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and to implement a comprehensive food safety program.
What is HACCP?
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, or HACCP, is a systematic approach to food safety within a facility; it focuses on the prevention of biological, physical, and chemical risks by establishing checkpoints at risk-related areas throughout a facility. For example, one might test a fruit processing plantÕs rinsing water at regular intervals to ensure that bacteria is kept below minimum allowance level.
Hollow core is a broccoli quality problem caused by rapid growth, usually when warm weather follows rain. This cosmetic defect occurs when the outer layers of the stalk grow faster than the middle layers, creating a cavity in the center of the stalk.
Hollow heart indicates an open cavity in the center of a potato that turns brown in more severe cases. Its cause is debated: some report it is a physiological disorder caused by not properly rotating fields (planting the same crop in the same lot for multiple growing cycles); others report it is caused by irregular or excessive watering (accelerated by late season rains). Packing sheds use ultrasonic machinery to scan and cull out potatoes with excessive hollow heart. A certain amount of hollow heart is allowed as per USDA Good Delivery Guidelines.
Insect pressure is a term indicating the presence of insects in lettuce fields. The number of insects can vary, depending on location and temperatures. Fall is typically the worst time for insect infestations. Many insect populations start in other fields such as cotton and melons; when these crops mature, they move to alternative harvesting areas like lettuce.
Product inspections in the field and post-harvest are fundamental to maintaining the integrity of the Markon First Crop, Ready-Set-Serve, and Markon Essentials brands. Markon believes in the adage "trust, but verify", so to supplement our written specifications, inspectors are at work six days a week to approve or reject potential fields for Markon First Crop lettuce, leaf, strawberry, potato and celery items, plus many other vegetable crops. Broccoli, cauliflower, apples, and onions are also inspected. In-house inspectors visit cold rooms three times per week to monitor post-harvest storage temperatures and weights for leaf, lettuce and many vegetable items.
For more information, please watch the "Day In the Life of a Markon Inspector" video.
What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
An IPM system seeks to implement socially responsible and economically feasible methods of reducing agricultural pests and promoting sustainable agriculture for the preservation of the environment. Management options include
For information about IPM in general: National Integrated Pest Management Network
Internal burn is when heat and/or rapid growth causes browning on lettuce's inner leaves; tip burn is the same condition occurring on the outer tips of leaves. Both problems decrease shelf-life and can lead to breakdown within the lettuce head. They are most prevalent in summer months, when temperatures are extremely high. Both conditions are usually caused when there is rapid growth and plants cannot get sufficient quantities of water to various sections of the head.
What is Irradiation?
A process in which high energy rays pass through packaged food. The process destroys dangerous microbes within and on the surface, including foodborne illnesses such as E. coli 0157:H7, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, Cyclospora, and Listeria. The process also eliminates pests (such as fruit flies) and slows foods' natural ripening process, extending shelf-life. Nutritional changes are insignificant.
Critics claim that studies of irradiated foods are inconclusive or outdated, and that studies point to the mutation of genes in both animals and humans.
What Methods are Used in the U.S.?
Foods Currently Approved for Irradiation
Does Markon Sell Irradiated Produce?
At this time, no Markon branded products are irradiated. In general, the degree of irradiation needed to kill pathogens in produce can damage it (for example, cause lettuces to wilt).
For More Information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Leaf miner problems include the larvae of moths, flies, and beetles that feed on leaves, hence they 'mine' the plant. Evidence of this problem includes spots, discoloration, and pitting. In lettuces, the leaf miner typically feeds on the lower leaves that can be trimmed.
After periods of rain or high humidity, mildew and mold can develop on certain produce items. Products that possess either of these problems are never packed, thus reducing overall supply levels. In some commodities (such as berries and citrus), mold can grow in transit; products should be disposed of immediately upon arrival to prevent cross-contamination.
Introduced in June 2011 to replace the Food Pyramid, MyPlate aims to simplify nutritional needs with a colorful plate diagram divided into four portion-size quadrants (fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins) and one side portion for dairy products. The diagram is accompanied by the United States Food & Drug Administration's advisory tips, including:
See the diagram and additional information at MyPlate.gov.
What Constitutes Organic?
The USDA's National Organic Standards went into effect on October 21, 2002. The standards, established by the National Organics Standards Board with the help of thousands of industry and public comments, were written over a period of twelve years. Only foods that meet specific standards can display the national label.
What Are the Labeling Laws? The National Organic Program (NOP) has four classifications of certification
To view the standards in detail, see The National Organic Program.
How Do The New Organic Laws Affect The Foodservice Industry?
To date most foodservice operators are excluded from these regulations, but foodservice establishments may someday be required to document organic suppliers' certifications in order to mention "organic" on menus or in advertising/promotional materials.
For more information about organics and the USDA standards, visit:
What is perchlorate?
Perchlorate is an industrial chemical. In the US it is used as primarily as an ingredient in rocket fuel, and in fireworks and flares. Perchlorate has also been found to occur naturally.
Does food contain perchlorate?
Is perchlorate regulated by the government?
What should I do?
Why Are Pesticides Used?
Farmers use pesticides to keep diseases, harmful insects, and rodents from infesting and damaging otherwise healthy crops. Without the use of pesticides, it is believed that production in every category of agricultural farming would fall and consumer prices would rise dramatically.
How Are Pesticides Regulated?
Is It Safe to Eat Produce Grown With The Use of Pesticides?
Premature pinking is the appearance of pink or light red areas at the site where fruits and vegetables are cut and signals shortened shelf-life. It is caused by respiration, water loss, and ethylene production.
What is Salmonellosis?
Most at risk
How is it Spread?
Caused by a type of soil-borne fungus, Sclerotinia prefers moist, humid conditions. The disease mainly affects mature lettuces, as well as other leafy greens, beans, cucumbers, citrus, melons, potatoes, and tomatoes. Symptoms include water-soaked spots on leaves that can become slimy or dry lesions on the stalk, stems, and branches that turn yellow, then brown.
Shatter is a term used to explain what happens when individual grapes become disconnected from the vine, usually through rough handling during harvesting, packaging, transportation, or receiving.
What is Shigellosis?
Any of the four main species of the pathogen Shigella. Most cases occur in regions with sub-standard hygiene and unsafe water supplies. A few cases of Shigellosis are reported in the US each year.
Most at risk
How is it Spread?
Specifications are detailed descriptions of requirements, such as dimensions, materials, defect allowances, etc. In the produce industry, specifications define minimum acceptable levels of quality and, as such, play a key role in product consistency.
Every item packed under the Markon First Crop, Ready-Set-Serve, and Markon Essentials brands must meet or surpass standards written by Markon. These product-specific specifications typically exceed USDA and industry standards for count, weight, color and/or defects. Our supplier partners know that if their crops cannot meet the written standards, for whatever reason, they can not pack the brand.
"The sweat" is the common term used to describe the natural process of allowing potatoes to shed excess moisture after being harvested. This process takes up to three weeks to complete once potatoes are in dry storage. After the sweat is finished, potato skins will have a smooth, net-like appearance that reflects the typical Russet variety.
Tomato spotted wilt virus, or TSWV is spread through nine different varieties of tiny winged insects called thrips. The disease affects tomatoes, but also celery, eggplants, peppers, lettuces, and pineapples, among others. Symptoms include bronze leaves, dark spotting, drooping leaves, stunted growth, and reduced yields. If a plant is affected early in the season, it will not produce fruit.
What is Trace Back?
Trace back refers to any means of tracing raw materials or ingredients in a product back to their places of origin. In the produce industry, for example, if a box of shredded lettuce were produced and packed under a trace back program, your distributor could trace back the head lettuce to a specific grower-shipper, packing house—even the field of origin. In the event the shredded lettuce was suspected in a case of foodborne illness, all other products sourced from the same origin could thus be readily identified and withdrawn from the market.
What is it?
Umami is a Japanese word meaning delicious flavor; in English it is usually described as having a meaty or savory taste. It was first identified by Professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University in 1908 and is generally recognized as the fifth sense (along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter).
Foods high in free-form glutamate (a naturally occurring result of the breakdown of protein molecules) have a distinct palatability, especially when combined with salt. It is thought that umami-flavored foods taste saltier or sweeter; it also balances bitterness or sour notes. Cooking, most notably roasting, intensifies umami flavors in foods that are naturally high in free-form glutamate.
Some examples are:
For more information about umami, see:
White shoulders are caused by uneven ripening and are most evident on strawberries that have been grown during fluctuating weather patterns. Certain enzymes critical to pigmentation within berries are inhibited by extreme heat.
Bloom drop, or as it’s sometimes called—blossom drop, is when the bloom or flower of a vine crop (cucumbers, melons, gourds, and tomatoes to name a few) drops off, preventing the plant from producing fruit. Once the flower is pollinated, the plant grows a cucumber or tomato (or whatever type of plant it is) in that location. If the bloom falls off, nothing can grow.
The most frequent cause of this problem is inclement growing conditions (extreme hot or cold temperatures, high winds, or torrential rainfall). Commercial growers work on very set schedules, so when freezing temperatures cause the majority of a crop to experience bloom drop, the entire harvest is delayed until new flowers appear and new fruit has time to mature. This often creates a future supply gap and drives up market prices.