Consumers demand high quality for the food they consume and they are increasingly demanding concerning the taste, appearance and shape of citrus fruits (and produce in general), as well as the consistency, purity and freshness of citrus juices. Food safety has become a very significant issue, particularly after the food scares in Europe. Consumers want to be informed about the food they are consuming through appropriate labeling and tracking and traceability schemes. The quality requirements citrus fruit and products have to comply with, would be determined by attributes such as maturity, hygiene, presentation, absence of residues, blemishes and diseases and environment protection.
International quality standards for citrus fruits and products are normally set in Codex Alimentarius. According to UNECE Recommendation for Citrus Fruit (UN Economic Commission for Europe, Agricultural Standards Unit, Fresh Fruit and Vegetables), the citrus fruits must be:
– free of bruising and/or extensive healed over cuts
– sound; produce affected by rotting or deterioration such as to make it unfit for consumption is excluded
– clean practically free of any visible foreign matter
– practically free from pests
– practically free from damage caused by pests
– free of signs of internal shriveling
– free of damage caused by low temperature or frost
– free of all abnormal external moisture
– free of any foreign smell and/or taste.
Maturity of citrus fruit is defined by minimum juice content, minimum total soluble solids content (TSS), i.e. minimum sugar content and coloring.
For quality testing, citrus grove managers take representative samples of fruits from a particular block of trees and check for the attributes. In the case of juice extraction, the fruit is squeezed from the sample fruit and the juice is tested for two main attributes, brix (total soluble solids) and acid. From these two attributes, the sugar/acid ratio, which gives the flavor of the juice, is determined. Orange juice must meet minimum standards to be sold as 100% Orange Juice (See: are you 100% sure that it´s pure?, Florida Department of Citrus). Quality of citrus fruits and juices is inspected at different stages of the marketing chain.
Apart from internationally established standards or quality, as supermarkets focus on customer satisfaction and since there are increasing concerns about food safety, retail chains are more demanding on quality aspects and they are very strict about third party certification. The industry is therefore increasingly paying attention to chain management and labeling systems in order to be able to trace the produce back to its origin. In the context of increasing environment-awareness in the EU, a group of leading European food retailers launched the EurepGap (Euro-Retailer Produce Working Group for Good Agricultural Practice) in 1999, with the objective of raising standards for the production of fresh fruit and vegetables by promoting food safety, sustainable use of natural resources and more environment-friendly production .In addition, in April 2000, a group of international retailers identified the need to enhance food safety, ensure consumer protection, strengthen consumer confidence, set requirements for food safety schemes and improve cost efficiency throughout the food supply chain. Following their lead, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) was launched in May 2000. The Initiative is facilitated by CIES – The Food Business Forum and is based on the principle that food safety is a non-competitive issue, as any potential problem arising may cause repercussions in the whole sector. The key priorities of the Initiative are to implement a scheme for benchmarking food safety standards world-wide; to build and implement an international early warning system; to encourage co-operation between the world-wide food sector and national and pan-national governments and authorities and to communicate the Initiative to all concerned parties and promote consumer education. For additional information visit CIES-The Food Business Forum.