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Microbial status of white asparagus spears during storage in moist packages

White asparagus is a high-value commodity of large economic importance in Germany. Its harvest period lasts only a limited part of the year, during which daily yield and also market demand are highly variable. Harvested asparagus is perishable; thus, quality control and shelf life must be ensured by proper handling, e.g., avoiding fresh weight losses and, at the same time, limiting microbial growth. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of moist asparagus packaging on unpeeled white asparagus (cv. Gijnlim). Water was added to some of the packages to reduce fresh weight losses and to study the consequences for microbial growth. Polythene bag packaging, lined inside with cellulose fleece, was used to hold 500-g bunches of spears, covered partly (open bag) or totally (closed bag). Storage duration was 7 days, at temperatures of 2°C, 8°C, and a combination of 2 and 22°C, simulating retail conditions. Using a standardized cultivation method for food assessment, CFU counts (5.20 to 7.95 log CFU), number of pseudomonads (4.79 to 7.90 log CFU), lactic acid bacteria (<3.00 to 3.94 log CFU), Enterobacteriaceae (4.26 to 7.15 log CFU, including Escherichia coli <1.00 log CFU), yeasts (<2.30 to 3.15 to 3.53 log CFU), and molds (<2.30 log CFU), as well as sulfite-reducing clostridia (<1 log CFU) were determined. Temperature was the most important factor for microbial growth. Additional water had no effect in most cases; it inhibited most of the fresh weight losses compared to dry treatments in this study but led to 2% weight increase in closed bags. Our results point to the conclusion that moist packaging would be a feasible alternative to dry wrapping with regard to weight retention, and it did not increase growth of the analyzed microbial groups to an unacceptable value.

Ruppel, S.; Brückner, B. 2019. Microbial status of white asparagus spears during storage in moist packages. Journal of Food Protection 82 (9), 1479-1483.