Tomato waste at rotten levels: USC study

Published: Comments:
Environment Food & Wine Science & Research University & TAFE

This is an archived copy of an article. It is online for informational purposes only.
Social:   
USC Honours student Tara McKenzie

Supermarket demands for premium, unblemished fruit and vegetables are contributing to alarming waste in Queensland’s tomato growing industry, according to a USC study.

Researchers followed two supply chains from Bundaberg, one of Australia’s largest tomato growing regions, and found up to 87% of undamaged, edible harvested tomatoes were rejected based on cosmetic appearance.

USC Environmental Science Honours student Tara McKenzie, 35, of Tewantin conducted the research project with USC supervisor Professor of Horticulture Steven Underhill and Research Fellow Dr Lila Singh-Peterson.

Professor Underhill said Ms McKenzie’s findings, recently published in the international journal Horticulturae, should be of deep concern.

Between 70 to 84 percent of produced tomatoes were left in the field, and only about 45 to 60 percent of the total harvestable crop reached consumers.

“These finding shows that sometimes it’s not even worth picking the crop,” he said. “While horticultural food loss is a well-publicised problem, Ms McKenzie’s research is one of the first to put some real numbers around the problem in Queensland.”

Ms McKenzie measured overall postharvest losses from the field to domestic markets in Brisbane and Bundaberg to determine the impact of harvesting, sorting and handling practices, transport, storage, and supermarket product specifications.

She also interviewed industry specialists and people working along the food supply chains.

“At every link, from harvesting and sorting to the market floor, edible tomatoes that were slightly odd-shaped or marked, or too small or too large were rejected because they didn’t meet market standards for only premium, unblemished product,” Ms McKenzie said.

“The ability of supermarkets to impose their own specifications and reject product by the pallet, based on a single blemish, gives them considerable power over primary suppliers and wholesalers.”

She said one industry officer likened the specifications to expecting fruit and vegetables to conform “like a pack of Arnott’s biscuits”.

The highest losses occurred in the field and packing sheds, where mechanisation and automated grading and sorting allowed commercial farms to stringently adhere to private food policy and standards.
 
“The level of food waste is heart-breaking and what is worse is the acceptance of this waste in our commercial food supply chains, with farmers being powerless to change it,” Ms McKenzie said.

The commercial grower involved in the research project stopped growing tomatoes shortly after it was completed.

Ms McKenzie, who was awarded First Class Honours for her thesis, said the results suggested future strategies to reduce food waste needed to be directed at the retail and consumer stages of the food supply chain that have a huge impact on the level of losses experienced by the primary producers.

“By showcasing only cosmetically-perfect product, supermarkets are reinforcing unrealistic consumer expectations of how fruits and vegetables should appear,” she said.


rejected tomatoes being dumped in the field

 
University Of The Sunshine Coast : View Full Profile
90 Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs
07 5430 1234
University Of The Sunshine Coast
Showing 10+ recent articles for this business
Students help entrepreneur launch sun protection device 25 June 2018 | Seven USC students are gaining invaluable work experience as interns while helping a local entrepreneur prepare to launch an innovative sun-safety product. More information...
PNG emerging leaders gain USC qualifications 21 June 2018 | Dozens of enthusiastic entrepreneurs will head home to Papua New Guinea this week ready to use new business skills they’ve gained from studying at the University of the Sunshine Coast. More information...
Graduates power local sport into online space 21 June 2018 | A team of new graduates from the University of the Sunshine Coast has founded an innovative online network that aims to change the face of community sport. More information...
Academic leads movement to stop violence against women 21 June 2018 | A USC academic has been appointed the Queensland chair of White Ribbon Australia, an organisation that aims to end male violence against women and girls. More information...
Exotic sea snacks the focus of student research 20 June 2018 | A duo of ocean delicacies - sea grapes and sea cucumbers – are the focus of two international research projects at the University of the Sunshine Coast. More information...
Immanuel College wins schools mooting final 19 June 2018 | Legal Studies students from Immanuel Lutheran College are celebrating winning their first ‘major case’ – the Sunshine Coast Schools Mooting Competition grand final at USC on Monday 18 June. More information...
Horse study wins award for USC planning graduate 19 June 2018 | A USC graduate’s innovative research into drought-proofing the nation’s horse properties has won a state award for emerging town planners. More information...
Legal debate to decide first mooting champions 14 June 2018 | Students from Chancellor State College and Immanuel Lutheran College will go head to head in some rigorous legal debate on Monday 18 June at the first Sunshine Coast Schools Mooting Competition grand final. More information...
Education expert says robotics skills vital for kids 12 June 2018 | With a more automated future on the horizon, all students should start high school with robotics and coding experience, says USC Education academic Natalie McMaster. More information...
Sunshine Coast seniors take steps into online games 11 June 2018 | Sunshine Coast seniors are giving online games a go, all in the name of science. More information...



Social:   
comments powered by Disqus

All articles submitted by third parties or written by My Sunshine Coast come under our Disclaimer / Terms of Service