The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Nutrient Loss During Shipping

Nutrient Loss During Shipping

Shoppers and Trends

May 25, 2008

Nutrient Loss During Shipping
ASK PHIL
Dear Phil,
 
A lot of our fresh fruits and veggies are from other countries, so picking them in the very unripe stage is the norm due to shipping them here. Do we loose a lot of the vitamin and mineral content of these foods by picking them early? And how does this affect taste?
 
Patricia
 
 
Patricia,
 
The length of time that fruits and veggies stay on the vine, ground or tree contributes to both nutrient content and flavor. The longer foods are able to ripen naturally on the vine, the higher their nutrient content, and usually, the richer their taste.
 
In order to ship long distances, produce is picked before it is ripe. In some cases, as in the case of tomatoes, they are picked when green and then ripened with a gas in the states to turn them red. Nutrient content and taste are certainly affected.
 
It’s a double-edged sword. Global shipping opens our access to fruits and vegetables we might not be able to get in the States, as well as offering us potentially lower prices. It also enables us to enjoy most fruits and veggies year-round, instead of just seasonally. But nutrient loss and a lack of flavor are the obvious trade offs.
 
Some countries are working to pass laws to promote the selling of in-season fruits and vegetables in the hopes that it will encourage consumers to purchase more local goods (British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey is working to get such a law passed in the UK). Buying foods that are in season would increase our access to nutrients and better tasting items. Clearly, this is why the “local” movement is growing so rapidly.
 
 
 
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