Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

Ripeness Sticker Coming to Supermarket Fruit 321

Adam Weiss writes "A biosystems engineering professor has just announced a "ripeness sticker" for fruit. According to this AP article, grocers throw out thousands of bushels of fruit a year because it ripens too fast (1 bushel is about 9 U.S. gallons). Mark Riley's RediRipe stickers turn from white to blue as fruit ripens. The stickers react with ethylene gas, a chemical which is released as fruit or vegetables ripen. However the article says "there are still bugs to be worked out: The stickers do not change color to reflect an overripe or rotten piece of fruit. Also, not all fruit produces enough ethylene to be detected by the sticker.""
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ripeness Sticker Coming to Supermarket Fruit

Comments Filter:
  • Metric (Score:4, Informative)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:03AM (#15789179) Homepage

    ...1 bushel is about 9 US gallons...

    It would have been friendly of the editors to provide a metric equivalent for the large percentage of their readership outside of the United States. Running GNU units [gnu.org] on 1 bushel tells me that it is just over 35 liters.

    • Re:Metric (Score:3, Informative)

      by baywulf ( 214371 )
      You could have typed "bushels to liters" in Google and gotten the conversion in a few seconds.
      • > You could have typed "bushels to liters" in Google and gotten the conversion in a few seconds.

        Or you could learn to use the archaic units we do.

        You'll be amazed at the feeling of superiority you get by being backwards deliberately!
    • Re:Metric (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:31AM (#15789267)
      The conversions everyone is giving are useless.
      The original article never gave a measurement of the number of fruit thrown out it mearly stated "thousands of bushels", which is akin to saying "lots of fruit".

      I'm hoping lots isn't a unit of some sort or some slashdotter will try and convert it :P
      • Re:Metric (Score:3, Funny)

        by benna ( 614220 )
        1 lot = 12.8 grams, but unfortunately this is a measure of mass, not volume.
        • 1 lot = 12.8 grams, but unfortunately this is a measure of mass, not volume.


          Seeing as how some fruits float (like apples), and others sink (like bananas), and that probably adds up to about 50/50, we can assume it has the same density of water. (If something floats, it is less dense than the liquid surrounding it, and if it sinks, it's denser).

          Therefore, a lot of fruit is about 12.8 mililiters of fruit.
    • Re:Metric (Score:3, Funny)

      by Lazbien ( 788979 )
      The metric system is the tool of the devil! (Slash the members of the Commonwealth.)

      I'm more concerned about how many hogsheads to the bushel. Now that I know I can get 6.77 hogshead to the bushel [google.ca], I understand.
    • "It would have been friendly of the editors to provide a metric equivalent for the large percentage of their readership outside of the United States."

      I am not a Slashdot Editor, but as an American I apologize.

      "... grocers throw out thousands of bushels of fruit a year because it ripens too fast (1 bushel is about 9 US gallons)."

      For those of you outside the United States, that would be "... grocers throw out hundreds of hogsheads of fruit a year because ...".
    • 1 bushel tells me that it is just over 35 liters.

      Or 35 litres as everyone outside the US spells it.

    • Re:Metric (Score:2, Insightful)

      by NicolaiBSD ( 460297 )
      When all that the poster mentions is that "thousands of bushels of fruit" are thrown away each year, what good is giving the bushel -> gallon or some metric unit conversion? It doesn't make the original comment any more specific. Basically he just says "lot's of".
    • ...1 bushel is about 9 US gallons...\,
      It would have been friendly of the editors to provide a metric equivalent for the large percentage of their readership outside of the United States. Running GNU units on 1 bushel tells me that it is just over 35 liters.

      Actually, it would have been even more pointless than the gallons conversion the submitter (not the editors, they never bother to edit) gave. The "thousands of bushels" remark is just away of saying "lots", using a unit assocated with agriculture.

  • Fudged? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:03AM (#15789180) Journal
    Wouldn't businesses be tempted to fudge the stickers to sell more fruit? They use red die on meat.
  • by Frogbert ( 589961 ) <frogbert AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:05AM (#15789185)
    Thanks for the conversion but why would you measure fruit in gallons or bushels? Perhaps some measure of mass would be more appropriate, say Kilograms, Pounds, Tons or Tonnes.
    • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:07AM (#15789192) Homepage
      Why do they measure fruit in bushels? It's simple: that's the traditional measurement in the US, and the article was written in the US for the US market.
      • Yes I realise it is a traditional measurement. I don't really care about units, it's just the fact that they are measuring fruit in the same way one would measure liquid. Fruit isn't liquid, I'm just wondering who, way back in the days of yore, decided it would be better to measure fruit by liquid measurements and not by their mass.
        • I'm just wondering who, way back in the days of yore, decided it would be better to measure fruit by liquid measurements and not by their mass.

          The farmers who told the Mexicans they'd give 'em a dime for every basket they filled.

          And buyers who came in and said "How much to fill this basket?"

          A cord of wood is how much you can fit in a farm cart.

          It's not a "liquid" measure. It's a farmer's dry goods measure, based on the tools they used to carry the goods.

          KFG
        • I'm just wondering who, way back in the days of yore, decided it would be better to measure fruit by liquid measurements and not by their mass.

          I doubt anyone conciously decided, it's a matter of practicality. It's also not a liquid measure; it's specified in the US as "dry measure".

          The baskets they used to hold the fruit are called "bushel baskets" or just bushels. How much fruit do you have? Count the baskets. I'm not positive, but I'd bet the basket was called a bushel before the measure of volume.

        • It's not a liquid measure. It's a volume measure. It's like the metric system. You know.

          1 cc = 1mg = 1mL of H2O.

          Space, mass, volume.

          Except the US system is Weight, Volume, and Space (pounds, gallons, inches or feet squared).

          It's a terrible system, and I wish the US would get with it, but they have been remarkably stubborn. The auto-makers haven't been making it easy either. Working on any car made in the last 20 years will require standard and metric tools... and it sucks.

    • Maybe because a bushel is 'A unit of volume measure used as dry measure of grains and produce.'
    • In picturing the amount of fruit thrown out, I don't want to estimate the density of an apple to figure out what 200 kg of apples would look like in a dumpster.
    • why would you measure fruit in gallons

      Leave those fruit out to ripen long enough and you'll get something you can easily measure in gallons... and WTFITS units...

      (WTFITS = What the F. Is That Stink? basd on a scale from 1 = cheap knock-off perfumes to 100 = skunk dead from terminal halitosislying in the hot sun for three days and sprayed with cheap knock-off perfume by a passing motorist ).
    • Pounds is a measure of force (specifically weight). The US system doesn't have a true measurement of mass. Wikipedia provides a spot of interesting information. Please, don't confuse weight and mass!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._customary_units [wikipedia.org]
    • "...why would you measure fruit in gallons or bushels?"

      Well, as far as gallon, etc, not going metric...we just never changed.

      But for produce, the bushel makes sense to me. When you go to the farmers mkt, they sell in standard sized buckets...a bushel or half bushel. Heck, they have them that way in some grocery stores too....I guess it is just something I've been used to growing up in the South...and I mentally associate the measure with the physical bucket/basket they sell the produce in.

  • Won't Work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:10AM (#15789201) Homepage Journal
    And this will save grocers money how?
    Pay more for the stickers.
    Throw out more fruit as people only choose the least ripe.
    • Re:Won't Work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Marcos Eliziario ( 969923 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:15AM (#15789212) Homepage Journal
      Well... Think the other way: Even loving pineapple and mango, I never buy these fruits, because I am an incompetent bastard that never know if they are ripe enough to be eaten. After some experiences buying pineapples acid enough to make me cry, I stopped buying those fruits. So, I'd definitelly would buy more fruits if I had some way of knowing if they are already ripe.
      • Re:Won't Work (Score:5, Interesting)

        by RajivSLK ( 398494 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:50AM (#15789323)
        You should try pineapples again. I've noticed that the qaulity has drastically improved in the last three or four years. Probably the result of improved logistics and shipping.
        • Re:Won't Work (Score:5, Informative)

          by Scarblac ( 122480 ) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @08:57AM (#15790171) Homepage

          Actually, the result of genetical engineering (or at least, good old selective breeding). Wikipedia says:

          At one time, most canned and fresh pineapples were produced on Smooth Cayenne plants. Since about 2000, the most common fresh pineapple fruit found in U.S. and European supermarkets is a low-acid hybrid that was developed in Hawaii in the early 1970s.

          Look for brand names like 'Del Monte Extra Sweet Pineapple Gold' and you know you have the sweet version.

      • Re:Won't Work (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mike_K ( 138858 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @04:39AM (#15789562)
        Here's a trick I learned about buying a pineapple: try to pull out a leaf. If it comes out easily and at the base of the leaf, it's ripe. Otherwise, it's not.

        Enjoy sweet sweet pineapples!

        m
      • "...I am an incompetent bastard that never know if they are ripe enough to be eaten..."

        ...and "incompetent bastards" + sticker is cheaper than "competent bastards".

        Seriously, if an experienced grocer can't open the crate and see how ripe / fresh the contents, how the hell does he stay in bussiness?
        • You forget that something like 95% of supermarket employees are teenagers working for minimum wage who (a) don't give a shit, (b) don't give a shit, and (c) couldn't tell a ripe fruit from a basketball.
      • I think with the thick skin of a pineapple that these stickers wouldn't work on it anyway, unlike the porous skin of an orange or nectarine.
      • Re:Won't Work (Score:4, Informative)

        by will_die ( 586523 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @06:39AM (#15789804) Homepage
        Well for pineaple this sticker would not work.
        Pineapple will not ripen after picked, it will start, at the base, to turn yellowish and indication that the flesh is getting softer, rotting which you want some of. While that would produce etheyle it would not get any better tasting. The pulling of the leaf test will kind of work it misses the reason behind it. You want a pineapple that is heavy for its weight, it has alot of water in it, and is still fresh so the crown is still green and the leaves have not dried out.
        However the best indication for a good pineapple is to find out where it comes from, usally shown on a sticker or sign in store, and then know the temperature of that place. Since pineapple cannot be frozen or stored long time, reason you have canned ones, it has to come to the store from the fields. Pineapple picked during the colder time has more acid and less suger, thoses picked during the summer have more suger. So with you knowing the location where it was picked and if the plant is still fresh you can make a guess of when it was picked and how it will taste.

        As for mangos they could use the sticker since they are best eaten when they are producing alarge amount of ethylene. However with mango you can detect that your self by smelling the fruit, if you get a strong smell it is ripe and ready to be eaten. Also mangos will ripen on the shelf, or using the old paper bag to speed up the process(larger consentration of ethylene causes them to ripen faster).
    • Throw out more fruit as people only choose the least ripe.

      Why would they choose the least ripe? I like to buy ripe fruit, and find it annoying when my fondling skills fail.
    • Most supermarkets put the ripest fruit and other perishables at the front on the principle that most people pick from the front. Which is why I pick from the back. Sometimes the difference in expiry dates can be a week or more.
  • over-ripe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by $FFh ( 229923 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:11AM (#15789203) Journal
    Why not use two stickers, or two halves of one sticker, that react at different rates?

    One half would indicate ripeness, the other over-ripeness.
  • by brandorf ( 586083 ) <brandorf@brandorf.com> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:12AM (#15789207) Homepage
    So you have a pile of fruit, each with this sticker. If the chemical these stickers detect is a gas, how do I, the consumer, know that the sticker changed color because *this* fruit is ripe, and not the one next to it? If said fruit was tossed in a crate and shipped, would all the stickers turn?
    • by wjsroot ( 732775 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:42AM (#15789297)
      maybe the sticker has the reative material on the underside and the color chaning material on above? two reactions?
      I'm not a chemical engineer but that sounds rather complex compaired with just picking up the food, looking at it, feeling if its firm, etc.
    • by profet ( 263203 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:58AM (#15789346)
      I've seen this technology before. The fruit was pears and they were sold in fours in a clear plastic packaging. The packaging was square shaped with each pear sitting in a corner. The top was domed and on the inside of the packaging was the sticker. I believe the discovery channel had a piece about this last year.

      Here is the video:
      VIDEO [www.exn.ca]
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @03:17AM (#15789378)
      The gas is actually a ripening agent. Its function is to make all the fruit in the same vicinity ripen at about the same time. Want your bananas to ripen faster? Stick 'em in a bag. The bag holds in the gas, which concentrates, quickening and syncronizing the ripening.

      Stick a fruit that's a bit riper in a crate? The others will start catching up, because of the gas released by the riper fruit.

      One bad apple. . .

      That's why they try not to do that when they pack 'em.

      KFG
    • I guess you assume that the concentration of gas is very low except directly next to the fruit's surface, then put the material in contact (or use some kind of gas exchange membrane) with the fruit's skin. You then seal off the rest of the sticker with a transparent plastic. That way the material should only ever "see" the ethylene from the fruit to which it's stuck.
    • Here is just a quick idea, but maybe, just maybe, the scientists who designed this thing actually know what they are doing more than we do, and have already thought of that. Just maybe all that work they did for their big degrees and Ph.D.s makes them more knowledgeable in their field than the average slashdotter.

      I know, I am about to be told that "I'm new here" ;-)
  • by aniceyoungman ( 898635 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:15AM (#15789213)
    ...use the old-fashioned method, scratch and sniff.
    • I prefer a wine-tasting approach. Take a bite, swirl it around in my mouth, and spit it on the floor. Although my family does complain about the teeth marks on all our produce.
  • by zCyl ( 14362 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:17AM (#15789216)
    But why not just look at the fruit itself?
  • by LarsWestergren ( 9033 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:18AM (#15789220) Homepage Journal
    Interesting, in Sweden just a day ago a newspaper reported [www.svd.se] that they had tested fruits and vegetables sold in Sweden with a refractometer, and out of 120 tests on produce sold in different stores, 64 were poor and 56 average, not a single fruit or veggie were "good" or "exceptional".

    The low Brix numbers measured indicate poor taste and nutrient levels, and are caused by too early harvesting, and speeding up growth with fertilizers and greenhouses (not enough time to accumulate nutrients from earth). Understandable, since this lowers risk for producers and allows them to ship long distances, for instance from New Zealand or Argentina. But consumers pay, because you need to eat more fruit and veg to get the beneficial effects, and they don't taste as well.

    Note that this newspaper is very pro-trade, pro-globalization and generally rightwing.
    • > But consumers pay, because you need to eat more fruit and veg to get the beneficial effects, and
      > they don't taste as well.

      Sensible consumers don't pay. Not at the supermarket, anyway. Don't get me wrong - supermarkets are good at some things. But the fruit and veg sections are terrible, here in the UK as well. The produce is picked long before it's ripe, the idea presumably being that it'll ripen by the time it's purchased, but produce doesn't work that way, so what you get is a hard, tasteless p
  • whatever (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:20AM (#15789232)
    Anybody who buys fruit regularly can tell how ripe it is by touching it. I've been making a lot of smoothies this summer and I can pretty much tell what a banana, peach, or mango will taste like with a very gentle squeeze. I'm okay with tomatoes but it seems like they vary.. sometimes they are hard but ready to eat. (My girlfriend can explain.. just kidding).

    And actually, I don't see how this sticker will reduce the amount fruit the grocers have to throw out.
    • Fair enough, this works for a lot of things. But what about a pineapple, or watermelon. Bananas are pretty easy, you can tell by the colour usually, but not everything.

      But I do agree, this sticker is almost useless. If parents actually taught their kids how to check for fruit, things would be better - that is, if they actually ate fruit.
      • Re:whatever (Score:3, Informative)

        by el_gordo101 ( 643167 )
        Pineapple - go by smell. It should have a rich pineapple smell. If it has no smell whatsoever, leave it. Pineapples do not ripen once harvested, so you can't count on that happening on your shelf at home. They will simply turn brown instead. Watermelon - These are a bit more difficult, but there is a trick to picking a good one. Look at the bottom of the melon (where it sits on the ground as it grows). The patch where it has been sitting should be a rich cream color. If it is too white, the melon is
  • by Sargeant Slaughter ( 678631 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:22AM (#15789236) Homepage
    SO I;m probably one of the only people that visists this site that actually was a "journeyman" produce guy and have dealt with ordering and throwing out massive quatities of produce for various stores (Vons, Henrys, and Bristol Farms). Any good produce manager already knows what he's got in his cooler and how ripe it is, without some sticker to mislead him. Sometimes different fruit give off different amounts of gas at the same ripeness level depending on where it was grown, how long in it was in cold storage, etc... Since produce is in the USA is constantly coming in from all over the world, I don't think these stickers would be very reliable. Also I don't think the stickers would help much with waste because buyers over order on purpose when they can get a good deal. Buyers and district managers will push the dept managers to order more as well to get it outta the warehouse before it goes bad too. A lot of the time, (unlike other grocery items) produce sales (5 grapefruit for a dollar etc...) are based on availability of particular crops at good prices. THe buyer will order a crapload, the chain puts 'em on sale and hope that the product sells before they go bad. Cold storage can make some produce items last surprisingly long (several months sometimes) but a LOT of the time stores end up throwing out tons of the stuff, totally wasteful, but hey thats capitalism! I think the only thing these stickers would be good for would be to inform customers that don't know when their fruit is ripe. However, the afformentioned problems would still arise and it is doubtful that they would be very reliable. I think this was mentioned in the article, but don't know for sure cause I don't have time to read it - typical /. style ;-)
  • Already done (Score:5, Informative)

    by onco_p53 ( 231322 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:46AM (#15789311) Homepage Journal
    We have had this in New Zealand for a while now, the product is Ripe Sense [ripesense.com] invented by scientists at Hort Research [hortresearch.co.nz] New Zealand.

  • Pears (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sc0p3 ( 972992 ) <jaredbroad @ g m a i l.com> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @02:54AM (#15789333) Homepage Journal
    Had these on Pears for years. They simply drive up the price of the fruit and add to the global plastic waste problem. The pears are packaged in packs of 4 in a plastic container.

    Just squeeze the pears for crying out loud.
  • it's like a mood ring for fruit?
  • An idea.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by metushelach ( 985526 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @03:47AM (#15789456)
    A small modification of these stickers (e.g. amount of alcohol in blood) would make them very suitable for blind dates.
  • by OpenSourced ( 323149 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @05:22AM (#15789654) Journal
    Primates' brains are wonderful at determining the ripeness of fruit. They've got the color perception evolved (err, I mean designed) practically just for that. That's like using a dog to help you climb trees.

  • Uhhh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @05:27AM (#15789665)
    > grocers throw out thousands of bushels of fruit a year because it ripens too fast [...] RediRipe stickers turn from white to blue as fruit ripens

    Looks like a solution in search of a problem, because it sure doesn't address the stated one.
  • by conn3x ( 989931 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @06:50AM (#15789828) Homepage
    I know a few coworkers I could stick a "ripeness" sticker on...
  • 1989 units, 71 prefixes, 32 nonlinear units

    You have: bushel
    You want: gallon
    * 9.3091775
    / 0.10742088
    You have: bushel
    You want: drygallon
    * 8
    / 0.125
    You have: bushel
    You want: peck
    * 4
    / 0.25
    You have: bushel
    You want: quart
    * 37.23671
    / 0.026855219
    You have: bushel
    You want: liter
  • there are still bugs to be worked out: The stickers do not change color to reflect an overripe or rotten piece of fruit.

    Well the bugs don't need a sticker to tell when an overripe piece of fruit is ready to be consumed or discarded.
    Only very inexperienced fruit consumers do.
  • in the old days, we used to look at and feel the fruit to see if it was ripe or not.

    Kids these days with their stickers.
  • You could always put up pictures to help people with how to tell what ripe fruit of whatever variety looks/feels like. It's relatively easy with bananas, but you cant' squeeze tomatoes to tell if they're ripe. The only thing we need stickers for is mangoes, because no one in the world knows when a mango is ripe!
  • Can we also have a ripeness sticker for politicians as well? The sticker could monitor the amount of bullshit instead of the amount of ethylene coming out of them.
  • Next Door Rotten (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AviLazar ( 741826 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @08:43AM (#15790124) Journal
    If this is a sticker then it operates based on touch. What happens if Apple A which has a sticker has the sticker touching Apple B. If Apple B is rotten, wouldn't it set off Apple A? It's working on a gas emission.
  • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @08:55AM (#15790158) Homepage Journal
    The stickers do not change color to reflect an overripe or rotten piece of fruit.
    Luckily, the fruit itself still does. Do you really need science to tell you not to eat the dark brown apples or fuzzy green oranges?
    • Luckily, the fruit itself still does. Do you really need science to tell you not to eat the dark brown apples or fuzzy green oranges?

      No, but having seen people in the line at the supermarket and clerking behind the cash register look at a piece of fruit or a vegetable and go "What is this?" I can heartily say that these stickers might actually save a few of the dimmer members of our species from extinction. Then again, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. We have this idea in the US that you can

  • by Kris Warkentin ( 15136 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @08:59AM (#15790181) Homepage
    Need one of these for girls:

    "18 yet? Let me check the sticker....Giggaty giggity gig!"
  • Here in the US, it's increasingly difficult to even find ripe fruit. Bananas are hard and green to the point where people see a yellow banana, let alone one with a few dark spots, and they freak out... Plums, apricots, nectarines... hard as rocks. I guess they have to be hard so the grocers can stack 'em 18 inches deep without the bottom of the pile getting pulped.

    Instead of inventing some fancy sticker nonsense, how about just putting the ripe stuff out where people can get at it.

  • Why throw it out. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by demigod ( 20497 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @10:59AM (#15791065)

    According to this AP article, grocers throw out thousands of bushels of fruit a year because it ripens too fast

    Why throw it out?

    Why not ferment it and turn it ethanol to use a fuel?

In every hierarchy the cream rises until it sours. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter

Working...