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That’s bananas! Scientists seek to stop waste by studying banana spots

Posted: 11 May 2022 | | No comments yet

Research on banana peels may hold the key to reducing tonnes of food waste, according to a new study by Florida State University.

bananas with brown spots representing fruit with spots

A new research study, published in Physical Biology reveals why bananas turn brown and how this reaction may reduce food waste.

The team of Florida State University researchers behind the study have produced a new method of simulating spot patterns on bananas, providing new insight into how this fruit browns over time. Many fruits turn brown when cut, damaged, or stored for longer periods of time – a process caused by air and enzymatic reactions. This browning leads to an estimated 50 million tonnes of food waste, as stores and consumers throw away fruits due to their appearance.

According to Oliver Steinbock, lead author of the research, in 2019, the total production of bananas was around 117 million tonnes, making it a leading crop in the world. “When bananas ripen, they form numerous dark spots that are familiar to most people and are often used as a ripeness indicator. However, the process of how these spots are formed, grow, and their resulting pattern remained poorly understood, until now,” he noted.  

The researchers studied how the spots form and evolve over time through time lapse videos. They found that the spots appear during a two-day window rapidly expand but then mysteriously stall.  

The team then looked at the cause of the spot stalling which they state “suggests mitigation strategies of the browning process that could compete with genetic modifications and storing the fruit in cooled containers or under a modified atmosphere”. Their work led to discover that the formation of the spots can be slowed by decreasing oxygen levels.

“Fruit browning continues to be a major challenge for the food industry. Our study offers a model for banana spotting which is capable of capturing their evolution in a physically meaningful context and which can be applied to procedures to mitigate food waste,” Steinbock added.

The researchers hope that this discovery will lead to consumers understanding how to stop the brown spotting and help stop tonnes of fruit from being wasted.

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