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Laser etching safe alternative for labeling grapefruit
Date:11/3/2009

LAKE ALFRED, FLLaser labeling of fruit and vegetables is a new, patented technology in which a low-energy carbon dioxide laser beam is used to label, or "etch" information on produce, thereby eliminating the need for common sticker-type labels. The technology has been licensed for use on a variety of fruits and vegetables and is being used in New Zealand, Australia, and Pacific Rim countries. It has been been approved in Asia, South Africa, Central and South America, Canada, and the European Union. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the final stages of approving the use of laser etching in the United States.

A research study aimed at investigating water loss, peel appearance, and potential decay in laser-labeled grapefruit was published recently in HortTechnology. "Little information is available on the impact of this new technology on the overall quality of labeled produce, especially its effect on water loss and decay during prolonged storage", said Dr. Ed Etxeberria, who headed the research team comprised of scientists from the University of Florida and the USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS).

"In Florida, grapefruit represents 43% of the citrus fresh market. Grapefruit require extended storage, especially when transported to international destinations. This study determined the effects of laser labeling on water loss and decay susceptibility during prolonged storage", Etxeberria explained.

During commercial production, citrus fruit is waxed before being labeled, packed, stored, and transported. Whereas common sticker-type labels do not deteriorate during storage, researchers postulated that water loss resulting from laser etching may distort the physical appearance of the fruit's surface, making it less effective and appealing. "The pinhole depressions applied after washing and waxing disrupt the natural cuticular barrier and the protective commercial wax cover, seemingly creating open cavities
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Contact: Michael W. Neff
mwneff@ashs.org
703-836-4606
American Society for Horticultural Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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