a. General. Mechanical damage is due to the action of machinery, mishandling, and/or improper packaging, and may result in cuts, punctures, bruises, and/or abrasions. The fleshy fruits are very susceptible to mechanical damage. Product texture may be soft around any cut, puncture, or abrasion. Both internal and external examination of the product may be necessary to determine the extent of mechanical damage.
b. Darkening in Color. The following color change may indicate mechanical damage: a darkening in color of both external and internal tissues of the affected area.
c. Improper Physical Handling. Improper physical handling can result in injuries caused by impact, compression, abrasion, puncturing, tearing, or two or more such actions combined. Some FF&V items are more easily injured than others. Some show objectionable symptoms more readily. However, none of the items are immune to damage. Once damaged, the items lose value because they become discolored, unsightly, and prone to invasion by decay organisms.
(1) Impact damage. Impact damage occurs when an item hits a surface with sufficient force to damage or even separate its cell. The external sign is a bruise or a crack.
(2) Compression. Compression also causes bruising and cracking. Compression occurs primarily during or after packing as a result of forcing too much product into too small a container. While vegetables and melons should be packed firmly enough to avoid chafing, they should not be stuffed in so tightly that their curved surfaces become flat. This happens all too often with lettuce.
(3) Abrasion. Abrasions can occur:
(a) During harvest when roots or tubers are dug.
(b) When vegetables are conveyed at excessive speed.
(c) During packing.
(d) When tomatoes roll on dirty belts.
(e) During transit in slackly packed containers. Slackly packed containers permit the individual items to rub against each other or against the container surface.
(4) Puncturing. Puncturing is not a serious problem with most vegetables because the main contributor to puncture, the stem, is detached during harvest. However, punctures are sometimes sustained by cucumbers, eggplants, and some packs of tomatoes because their stems accidentally or unintentionally remain attached.
(5) Tearing. Tears are sustained by leafy vegetables and, because of the tissue exposed, contribute to rapid dehydration, discoloration, or decay of the affected leaf.
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