Maintaining proper transit temperatures

Treated properly, fresh produce maintains its quality and appearance from harvest to consumption. While transportation takes only a few days in produce shelf life that can be as long as a month or more, handling during transit plays a critical role in allowing optimum product life. For instance, allowing some stone fruit to warm up 30% above the recommended transit and storage temperature can cut shelf life by half. Allowing ethylene-sensitive produce to come into contact with fruit or vegetables that produce high volumes of ethylene as they ripen accelerates ripening of the sensitive produce, cutting its potential shelf life.

Plant tissue begins losing moisture immediately after harvest, especially through cut surfaces. Maintaining high humidity levels during transit helps slow this process. Unfortunately, the heating and cooling inherent in the normal refrigeration cycle accelerates this process. Refrigeration unit manufacturers have made great strides in recent years to reduce temperature variation and slow the amount of moisture pulled from produce during transit. Humidity control can be enhanced by topping loads with a shallow layer of ice where appropriate.

Product Transit Temp
Temp F
Freezing
Temp F
Humidity
%
Ethylene
Production/Sensitivity
Ice
Yes/No
A
Apples 32-36 30 90-95 Very High/High No
Apricots 32 30.1 90-95 Medium/High No
Artichokes 33-38 29.9 95-100 Very Low/Low Yes
Asparagus, green 32-35 30.9 95-100 Very Low/Medium No
Asparagus, white 32-36 95-100 No
Avocados 40 31.5 85 High/High No
B
Bananas 56-58 30.6 90-95 Medium/High No
Beans, green 40-45 30.7 95 Low/Medium No
Beans, haricot 40-45 95 No
Beans, lima 37-41 31 95 Low/Medium No
Beets 32 30.3 98-100 Very Low/Low Yes
Blackberries 32 30.5 90-95 Low/Low No
Blueberries 31-32 29.7 90-95 Low/Low No
Broccoli 32 30.9 95-100 Very Low/High Yes
Brussels sprouts 32 30.5 95-100 Very Low/High Yes
C
Cabbage, green 32 30.4 98-100 Very Low/High Yes
Cabbage, Chinese 32 95-100 Yes
Cabbage, red 32 30.4 90-95 Very Low/High Yes
Carrots, w/greens 32 29.5 98-100 Very Low/High Yes
Cauliflower 32 30.6 90-98 Very Low/High No
Celery 34-36 31.1 85-90 Very Low/Medium Yes
Celery root 33-35 95-100 Yes
Cherries 32 28.8 90-95 No
Chicory 33-35 95-100
Clementines 38-40 90-95 No
Coconut, fresh 32-35 30.4 Low/High No
Corn, sweet 34-38 30.9 85-90 Yes
Cranberries 38-40 30.4 90-95 Low/Low No
Cucumbers 45-50 31.1 90-95 Low/High No
Cucumbers, seedless 50-55 85-90 No
E
Eggplant 46-54 30.6 90-95 Low/Medium No
Eggplant, Japanese 46-54 90-95 No
Endive, Belgian 36-38 95-98 Very Low/Medium No
Endive, curly 32 31.9 90-95 Very Low/Medium Yes
F
Fennel 32 90-95
Figs 34 85-90 Medium/Low No
G
Garlic 32-34 30.5 65-75 Very Low/Low No
Grapes 32 29.7 85 Very Low/Low No
Grapefruit, AZ, CA 50-55 30 85-90 Very Low/Medium No
Grapefruit, FL, TX 50-60 30 85-90 Very Low/Medium No
K
Kale 34-36 95-100 Very Low/Medium Yes
Kiwifruit 32 29 90-95 Low/High No
Kohlrabi 34-36 95-100 Very Low/Low Yes
Kumquats 40 90-95 No
L
Leeks 32 30.7 95-100 Very Low/Medium Yes
Lemons 45-48 29.2 85-90 No
Lettuce, Boston 32 90-95 Low/Medium Yes
Lettuce, iceberg 34-36 31.7 98-100 Very Low/High Yes
Lettuce, romaine 32 31.7 95 Yes
Limes 55 29.1 85-90 No
M
Mangoes 55 30.3 85-90 Medium/Medium No
Melons, bitter 53-55 85-90 Low/Medium No
Melons, cantaloupe 35-40 29.9 90 High/Medium No
Melons, honeydew 45-50 30.5 90-95 No
Melons, mixed 50 30.5 90-95 No
Melons, pepino 40-42 85-90 Low/Medium No
Melons, water 50-60 31.3 90 Very Low/High No
Mushrooms 34-38 30.4 85-90 No
N
Nectarines 31-32 30.4 90-95 Medium/High No
O
Okra 43-45 28.7 85-95 Low/Medium No
Onions, dry 32 30.6 65-70 Very Low/Low No
Onions, green 32 30.4 95-100 Low/High Yes
Oranges, AZ 32-48 30.6 85-90 Very Low/Medium No
Oranges, CA 45-48 30.6 85-90 Very Low/Medium No
Oranges, FL 32-34 30.6 85-90 Very Low/Medium No
Oranges, TX 32-48 30.6 85-90 Very Low/Medium No
Oranges, blood 40-44 90-95 No
P
Papayas 50-55 85-90 No
Parsley 32 95-100 Yes
Parsnips 33-35 95-100 Yes
Passion fruit 45-54 85-95 Very Low/High No
Peaches 32 30.4 90-95 High/High No
Pears 32 29.2 90-95 High/High No
Peas, green 32-35 30.9 85-95 Very Low/Medium Yes
Peppers, bell 45-50 30.7 85-90 Low/Low No
Peppers, chili 38-44 30.7 60-70 Low/Medium No
Persimmons 40-45 90-95 Low/High
Pineapple, green 50-55 30 85-90 No
Pineapple, ripe 45 30 85-90 Low/Low No
Plantains 54-58 85-90 Low/High No
Plums 32 30.5 90-95 Medium/High No
Pomegranates 41 90-95 No
Potatoes 45-50 30.9 90 Very Low/Medium No
Potatoes, new 45-50 30.9 90 Very Low/Medium No
Pummelos 45-48 85-90 No
Pumpkins 50-60 30.5 50-75 Low/Medium No
Q
Quince 31-32 90 No
R
Radicchio 32-34 95-100 No
Radishes 32 30.7 95-100 Very Low/Low Yes
Raspberries, black 32 30 90-95 Low/Low No
Raspberries, red 32 30.9 90-95 Low/Low No
Rhubarb 33-35 95-100 Very Low/Low No
Rutaba gas 32 98-100 No
S
Satsumas 37-39 85-90 High/High No
Shallots 32 95-100 Low/Low Yes
Spinach 32 31.5 95-100 Very Low/High Yes
Squash, hard 50-55 30.5 70-75 Low/Medium No
Squash, soft 41-50 31.1 95 Low/Medium No
Squash, zucchini 45-50 90-95 Very Low/Low No
Strawberries 32 30.6 90.95 Low/Low No
Sweet potatoes 55-60 85-90 Low/Low No
T
Tangerines 40 30.1 90-95 Very Low/Medium No
Tomatoes, green 62-68 85-88 Very Low/High No
Tomatoes, pink 62-68 85-88 High/Low No
Tomatillos 55-60 85-90 Very Low/Medium No
Turnips 32 85-90 Very Low/Low No
W
Watercress 33-35 95-100 Very Low/High Yes
Source: US Department of Agriculture

In general, shippers and receivers know their products well and take appropriate measures to maintain the best possible transportation environment. Drivers with long experience with produce usually are expert as well. However, truckload fleets have a constant need for new drivers, some of whom may be unfamiliar with proper handling of fresh produce. The following table provides a quick guide to proper temperature requirements, icing options, and sensitivity to ripening gases. Copy it, and make it available to drivers as part of their standard paperwork.

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