Visual quality and waste of leafy vegetable and fresh herbs in a typical retail market

Milza Moreira Lana, Antônio Williams Moita


Because of their high perishability, leafy vegetables and fresh herbs are transported to the market soon after harvest. It is very likely that most of the damage caused in the farm and during transport will result in food discard only later in the retail market or in the household. Inadequate handling and marketing strategies in the store are expected to further contribute to waste. The study was designed to address the following questions: (1) what is the visual quality of leafy vegetables and fresh herbs received in the retail market; (2) what is the volume of discard of these produce in the retail market (3) what are the main causes of discard and (4) how these variables are influenced by the vegetable species, the suppliers and the stores evaluated. The study was conducted in 4 stores of a regional supermarket chain in Distrito Federal – Brazil, for a period of 6 months. It was evaluated: (1) number of produce items received and discarded; (2) visual quality of produce at reception; (3) cause of discard. The operations in each shop were described based on observations and discussion with the store staff. When considering the sum of all produce, the discard (expressed as units per day and corrected for quantity purchased) was influenced by all the factors studied, namely store, supplier and day of the week. Delivery of produce with any signs of wilting and yellowing was negligible but produce with bruised and old leaves which should have been trimmed in the farm were frequent. Visual quality was important to determine shelf life and preference by the consumer but how important it was depended on other factors such as the produce considered and the workflow in the store. The percentage of discard varied from 8.7 % to 97.0 % of the number of units purchased. Smaller waste volume was observed for spring onion, parsley, coriander, collard, leak and green leaf lettuce. Waste volume equal to or above 50 % was observed for vegetables baby romaine lettuce, broad leaved endive, wild chicory and mustard greens and fresh herbs sage and thyme. The vegetable and fresh herbs discard in the Brazilian retail market is in great measure the result of technological constraints and are not intentional. The implications of this situation in the definitions of food waste and food loss are discussed.



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