University of Florida

44th Annual Citrus Packinghouse Day

September 1, 2005

Citrus Research and Education Center
700 Experiment Station Road
Lake Alfred, FL 33850-2299

In cooperation with Florida Citrus Packers

Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville

Registration--8:30 AM
Program--9:30 AM

Packinghouse Day Coordinators

Mark Ritenour, Ph.D., Program Coordinator
Bill Miller, Ph.D., Exhibits Coordinator
Renée Goodrich, Ph.D., Local Arrangements Coordinator

Welcome to the Forty-Fourth Annual Citrus Packinghouse Day! I am very pleased that it is back after being canceled during last year's brutal 2004 hurricanes. Throughout today, leading members of industry and scientists from the University of Florida, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry will present practical information of interest to your business. This year, in addition to the many important issues to be addressed, we will be providing concurrent training sessions for packinghouse management and workers. These training sessions will cover, 1) Forklift Driving Safety, 2) Packinghouse Postharvest Treatment Safety, and 3) Citrus Canker Decontamination Procedures. A Certificate of Completion will be awarded to each person completing the training.

This year's keynote speaker is Juan Muniz from PrimusLabs who will discuss how to pass a 3rd party food safety audit, with brief information about EurepGap and BRC (British Retail Consortium) requirements. Other topics presented will include:

  • Update on issues of packinghouse biosecurity
  • Fruit and packingline sanitation
  • Progress of the Citrus Canker Eradication program
  • Color separation of Florida citrus prior to degreening
  • Prospects and progress for robotic harvesting of fresh Florida citrus
  • Prospects for good fruit quality this year

Because of a generous donation from DECCO/Cerexagri, Inc., an excellent lunch will again be provided to the first 200 people to register. Be sure to stop by DECCO's exhibitor booth to say thanks! Representatives from more than 20 companies will be on hand to provide valuable information for your business. Check out what they have to offer after lunch. An exhibitor list will be provided including the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and products sold.

Be sure to stick around for the door prize drawings. We will again be giving out $250 in door prizes. The only catch is that you have to be present to win. One of the door prizes will be given out in the exhibitor area. Also, please complete and turn in an evaluation form, they provide us with valuable feedback on how we can improve Packinghouse Day. One of the door prizes will be awarded only to participants who turn in a completed evaluation form.

Mark A. Ritenour
Program Coordinator
Indian River Research & Education Center


8:30 AM Registration

9:30 AM Introductions and Instructions

Mark A. Ritenour, Program Coordinator
Indian River Research and Education Center


Dr. Harold W. Browning, Center Director
Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred


Mr. Richard Kinney
Executive Vice President
Florida Citrus Packers, Lakeland

10:00 AM How to Pass a Food Safety Audit, Overview of BRC Requirements

Juan Muniz, Primus Labs, Santa Maria, CA

Many retailers and foodservice companies are requiring the production of Safe Production Manuals and Third Party Audits as a verification of food safety practices. This presentation will:

  • Review the important components of a good food safety program
    • Good Manufacturing Practices
    • Food Safety File Requirements
    • HACCP Program (Sometimes required by a Buyer)
    • Food Security (evolving)
  • Provide instructions for accessing online tools for evaluating a company's food safety program
  • Discuss the steps that are involved in a Primus Labs audit
  • Discuss practical tips on how to pass a food safety audit (including common pitfalls and misunderstandings about the requirements)
  • And briefly discuss the general differences between domestic food safety standards and EUREPGAP and BRC requirements

The online, food safety program evaluation tools mentioned can be accessed from the Primus Labs website free of charge. These include materials to assist in developing safe production/packing/shipping/receiving manuals, and in conducting self-audits. The self-audits use the same exact questions that are used by Primus Labs auditors when conducting independent third party audits.

For more information, contact Julian Sollozo or Chelsea Felix at (805) 922-0055 or by e-mail at, or

10:30 AM Update on Issues of Packinghouse Food Safety and Biosecurity

Renée M. Goodrich, UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred, FL

Starting with the President's Food Safety Initiative in 1997, there has been a heightened interest in produce-related food safety issues. An increase in per capita fruit and vegetable consumption in the past decade, coupled with several high-profile foodborne disease outbreaks related to produce, has led to continued regulatory and scientific focus on fresh and fresh-cut fruit and vegetable food safety and security.


Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) have been the cornerstone programs in produce food safety for the past 5 years. Since 1998, when these federal guidance documents were issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most major producers and packers have adopted GAPs programs. Impetus for change was the realization that produce food safety was a real concern for consumers and regulators alike. Additionally, many producers/packers instituted GAPs programs to achieve and/or maintain preferred vendor status with important customers.

Important components of GAPs programs include assessing the following aspects of production and packing, as appropriate for a given operation:

  • Water
    • Agricultural water source and distribution
    • Historical use of land
    • Wells properly maintained
    • Processing water is tested regularly
    • Cooling water and ice are clean and sanitary
  • Worker Health and Hygiene
    • Employees properly trained in good hygienic practices
    • Re-assignment of ill employees to non-food handling duties
    • Proper use of gloves
    • Proper management and stocking of field toilets
    • Be familiar with laws and regulations that might apply to field sanitation facilities such as state laws and OSHA
  • Field and Packing Facility Sanitation
    • Storage facilities and bins cleaned before use
    • Do not re-contaminate produce that is washed, cooled or packed
    • Maintain temperature that promotes optimum produce quality and minimize pathogen growth
    • Assign responsibility for equipment cleaning and maintenance
    • Remove as much dirt as possible outside packing area
    • Establish and maintain pest control program in packinghouse
  • Transportation and Traceback
    • Transportation vehicles inspected for cleanliness, odor and debris before loading
    • Maintain proper transport temperatures
    • Be able to trace produce containers from the farm, to the packer, distributor and retailer
    • Document date of harvest, farm identification and who handled produce

Much useful and practical information regarding produce safety and GAPs can be found at the following FDA website:

Food Security and the Bioterrorism Act of 2002

September 11, 2001 was a wake-up call for American citizens and businesses. The nation's food supply has been identified as a critical network and a possible target for terrorist activities. This portion of the presentation will focus on summarizing the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 as it relates to fresh fruits and vegetables, including citrus. Some producers, and all packers, face new record keeping requirements in light of this recent legislation. The specific requirements of Facility Registration and Prior Notice will be reviewed, and some food security self-auditing information will be provided. A detailed discussion of the relatively recent (August 2004) Questions and Answers Regarding Registration of Food Facilities, Edition 4 will cover the packer-specific aspects of this latest guidance. This document can be found at:

Finally, a valuable resource for background information regarding food security, bioterrorism, and the specific requirements of the Act can be found at the main FDA food biosecurity website:

Increasingly, third party audits will address the food biosecurity issues summarized at this website; these audits are becoming necessary to sell product to major customers. Therefore it is good business to both learn and implement appropriate food safety and security practices at your individual facility; this talk will discuss some of the resources available for that purpose.

10:45 AM Sanitizers in Packinghouses

Jan Narciso, Citrus and Subtropical Products Lab, USDA/ARS, Winter Haven, FL

Sanitation literally means "to promote health" and is usually associated with applications to reduce disease-causing microorganisms on foods or food contact surfaces. In packinghouses, this includes reducing the number of fungal spores on fruit contact surfaces (e.g. brushes and belts) as well as on fruit surfaces that can cause postharvest decay.

While fungicides are organism specific, sanitizers are non-specific and will kill most fungi and bacteria with which they have contact. Fungicides will act for a prolonged period. The working time of sanitizers depends on the amount of organic materials introduced into these solutions. ("Organic materials" include twigs, leaves and soil stuck on fruit surfaces as well as any juice and microorganisms). In addition, the effectiveness of sanitizers is variable, depending often on pH, concentration, contact time, and general condition and type of the commodity.

To be most effective, fruit and packinghouse sanitation should begin with Good Agricultural Practices in the grove. The goal is to harvest fruit with minimum peel damage (e.g. wounds, scab) and without infection from latent disease. This is partially accomplished with prudent tree pruning as well as the application of a preharvest spray. At the packinghouse, sanitation practices continue with cleaning and sanitizing the line and the fruit. Split or decayed fruit should be culled from the line, as removing these diseased fruits from any proximity to the packingline will avoid re-contamination.

There are a variety of ways to sanitize the fruit and/or fruit contact surfaces. These include methods that are widely used such as chlorine based dips or drenches for both the fruit and packinghouse surfaces, and cleaning with hot water under pressure. Some newer sanitizing agents, such as peroxyacetic acid (PAA), are safe and effective for both the packinglines and fruit surfaces and are not as corrosive as chlorinated products. Ozone (used often in re-circulating water systems) reduces microorganisms on produce surfaces and has been found to be successful in reducing decay caused by some fungi. However, to accomplish this, the water must be pre-conditioned before the ozone is added and the contact time for fruit surfaces greater than 2 minutes. Also, ozone will not prevent growth of fungi once they are in wounds and peel abrasions. Ozone concentrations (>0.1 ppm) can be dangerous to packinghouse workers over time, and can be corrosive to packinghouse equipment. Chlorine dioxide is an anti-fungal sanitizer that can be used over a wide pH range, but may be expensive to use and, if the packinghouse is not adequately ventilated, can cause respiratory problems in packinghouse workers.

Sanitizers should be a part of an integrated program of processes and possibly other chemicals to maintain fruit quality. It is important to remember that sanitizers have several limitations, one being that they have no residual effect. Some are inactivated quickly when they are exposed to organic materials, and require constant vigilance in maintaining a stable pH level (e.g. chlorine). To make sanitizers more effective, increasing exposure time rather than concentration may reduce numbers of viable spores on fruit surfaces without causing problems for workers or equipment. Regular cleaning of brushes (especially in non-recovery systems) is necessary as spores can accumulate on them; sanitizers would be well used here. Non-recovery systems are found to have a higher incidence of microorganisms throughout the packingline and these should be carefully maintained and sanitized so clean fruit is not re-inoculated at the end of the packinghouse process.

11:00 AM Citrus Canker Update on Eradication Progress and Regulatory Issues

Mark Estes, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry

11:15 AM Color Separation of Florida Citrus Prior to Degreening

William M. Miller, University of Florida, Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred, FL

One potential scenario to operate a packinghouse more efficiently is to process only fruit lots where a high percent of the fruit is of a packable grade. Obviously, the first step would be to select groves that have been maintained to produce fresh market quality citrus and that have a previous history of yielding high packouts. A new step that packers may want to consider individually or in a cooperative arrangement is to pre-grade fruit before degreening. Electronic camera-based grading systems have been implemented in numerous Florida packinghouses. However, a high percent of non-marketable fruit are de-greened and handled through the initial dump, trash elimination and washing unit operations. An electronic sizing/grading step before de-greening could eliminate under and over-sized fruit, severely blemished fruit and fruit of low density (i.e. freeze-damaged or granulated fruit). Inclusion of color separation would reduce de-greening time and provide some fruit for immediate packing. Herein, preliminary results are presented on such initial color separation.

Fallglo tangerines were classified based on color only with a machine vision based automatic grading unit (Colour Vision Systems, Vero Beach, FL). The fruit were segregated into either 4 or 5 classes based on a hue-saturation-intensity color space with defined color regions ranging from yellow-orange to dark green. Although the fruit had not been washed, they were readily separated into color grades for subsequent de-greening.

Initial tests in Fall 2003 on three harvest dates of Fallglo tangerines indicated that 14 to 44 percent of the fruit had satisfactory color for immediate packing. The amount of fruit considered dark green was 8 to 58 percent dependent upon harvest date. A de-greening time increase from 24 to 48 hours resulted in a small decrease from 4 to 2 percent, in dark green fruit.

Initial grading and separation of Florida citrus fruit before degreening would allow more efficient use of de-greening room space. Some fruit with sufficient natural color could be processed immediately. Secondary advantages of the above approach would include minimum fruit exposure time to ethylene treatments and better utilization of packingline equipment. The shortening or eliminating of degreening time should noticeably increase fruit quality and provide more uniformity in packing operations.

(The author would like to acknowledge the contributions of Ms. Sherrie Buchanon, Sr. Engineering Technician at CREC and Mr. Guillermo Moreda, Ph.D. student in Agricultural Engineering at Polytechnic Univ. of Madrid in conducting this study.)

11:30 AM Prospects and Progress for Robotic Harvesting of Fresh Florida Citrus

Dr. Thomas F. Burks, Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, University of Florida, Gainesville

In the summer of 2001, the Florida Department of Citrus began an investigation into the potential for using robotics to harvest citrus. Current mass harvesting programs have proven viable for process citrus, but cannot be used for fresh fruit markets, and questions remain with regard to mass harvesting late season Valencia. During the course of this investigation, a Fact Finding Team evaluated past horticultural robotics efforts, talked to experts in the area of robotics, Ag mechanization, horticulture, and economists to determine if there had been sufficient advances in technology, and changes in the economic potential for robotic harvesting to suggest that a renewed effort was warranted. The consensus opinion of a Forum on Robotic Citrus Harvesting, April 2002, was that there was an urgent need for harvesting solutions for the fresh fruit market, that significant long-term financial commitment would be required, and although it is a difficult problem, enough technical progress has been made in the past decade to warrant a new robotics program. Initial optimistic estimates have suggested that a 7 to 10 year program will be required to bring forth a market ready system, which would require budgetary levels beyond that of most agricultural commodity groups. There is a growing interest among national researchers and commodity group leaders to seek federal funding for supporting a national initiative to promote automation of horticultural production.

Through the funding and support of the Florida Department of Citrus, a research program was begun at the University of Florida in the summer of 2002, which is seeking to address the fundamental technology barriers which have prevented past citrus robotics efforts from being successful. The following research projects are currently in progress at the University of Florida; 1) fruit detection systems, 2) manipulator development, 3) fruit handling systems, 4) vehicle guidance, 5) visual servo control, and 6) grove design and tree genetics for optimized harvesting.

11:45 AM Prospects for Good Fruit Quality this Year

L. Gene Albrigo, Citrus Research and Education Center, University of Florida, Lake Alfred, FL

In recent years, internal fruit quality has been relatively poor. Fruit has matured early based on sugar to acid ratio and two year's ago fruit developed internal drying (granulation) early, especially in navel oranges but even in 'Hamlin'. Granulation is associated with low soluble solids and acidity contents. Characteristics of these poor quality years include early bloom, high spring and fall temperatures with a variety of crop loads. An analysis of weather and other characteristics suggests that early maturity is primarily weather related and leads to low solids. For last year's crop, bloom was still early, but spring temperatures were cooler than previous years. However, the previous year's crop and the heavy set led to small fruit size, and then external quality was compromised by hurricane damage. Other factors may also contribute to fruit quality limits. This year the normal early and mid-March bloom dates were predicted, but cool spring weather and probably hurricane effects delayed the main bloom until late March. The spring was unusually wet and continued into the summer. Fruit may have less protective natural wax and not withstand handling as well as in a dryer year, so extra care should be employed until some experience with fruit condition is obtained. Maturation might be a little later than recent years, with lower brix and acid levels due to dilution and fewer mature leaves. The general balance of favorable and unfavorable factors for internal and external fresh fruit quality will be discussed.