Fresh food fight


How retailers and producers keep food looking fresher for longer

Supermarkets and green grocers claim their produce is fresher than ever but just how fresh are their fruit, vegetables and meat?

CHOICE report into freshness says advances in technology and transportation mean the longer life of food, its availability and convenience come at a nutritional and taste cost to the consumer.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) guidelines, 'fresh' refers to food put on sale as early as possible after the time of picking, catching or producing.

"Developments in food technology and storage ensure we have a wide range of fruit and vegetables available all year round, but can you call apples that are nine months old truly fresh?" says CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just.

Tricks used to keep food fresh include packing fruit and vegetables in modified atmospheric packs to slow deterioration and storing apples in 1 methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) to extend shelf life.

Vacuum-packed meat using carbon dioxide and nitrogen to inhibit the growth of micro-organisms allows lamb cutlets to be stored for up to 112 days and chilled beef mince for up to 44 days.

"English spinach refrigerated for just eight days loses more than 50% of its key nutrients - so its important consumers look beyond appearances when buying fresh produce," says Ms Just.

"When in doubt reach for frozen or canned options as these can be more nutritious than 'fresh' produce transported over long distances and stored for extended periods."

For more information, go to www.choice.com.au/fresh

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