Ethylene Control in Fruit Packaging
ETHYLENE is a small hydrocarbon gas which is naturally occurring. You can't see or smell it.
Some fruit will produce ethylene as the natural ripening begins. Apples and pears are examples of fruit that produce ethylene with ripening. Ethylene is responsible for the changes in texture, softening, colour, and other processes involved in ripening.
Sometimes ethylene will be wanted - it is used as a 'ripening agent' - but other times it is not. Consequently, controlling the amount of ethylene within fruit packaging – or absorbing any unwanted ethylene naturally produced by the product – can have a very positive effect on the shelf-life.
Fruits which produces high quantities of ethylene during ripening are known as Climacteric. These fruits produce much larger quantities of ethylene, although the internal ethylene concentrations vary significantly between fruit types. This ethylene speeds up the ripening process.
Non-climacteric fruit produces little ethylene during its growth and ripening - however, exposure to ethylene can still cause these fruits to ripen quicker. A non-climacteric fruit stored next to a climateric fruit, for example, could still be affected by a speeded-up ripening process.
Absorbing ethylene in the packaging can, in effect, slow down the ripening process - extending the shelf-life of the fruit.