How to use what you already know to Inspect Asian Produce

How to use what you already know to Inspect Asian Produce

Part 1 of 2

Oct 31, 2019 | Jeff Honey


There has been some talk recently about the ever-increasing amount of Asian produce available in the market place. Specifically, it was suggested that I prepare a special seminar to train people on the proper ways to inspect these various products. After much thought and a little bit of reading, I decided that a full day on this subject was not warranted.

For those of you who have attended one of our seminars, you will remember that I teach some broad, portable methods for taking information from somewhere and applying it in areas where information is lacking. I also say that none of this is rocket science. Look at what you have on the table in front of you, decide what it resembles, and “borrow” some information and apply it to your situation.

I remember the first time that I inspected a load of lemon grass some thirty years ago. I had never heard of it, never seen it, didn’t know what it was for. I was the only person in that warehouse on that day who spoke any English. I knew that there were no written resources in the office at the time to guide me, and our friend the internet wasn’t a public resource, yet. I poked around the coolers until I found another lot of lemon grass that was green. My samples were all a sandy yellow colour. One problem solved: it’s supposed to be green!

Now, how do I write a report that is going to convey this information to the buyer and the seller, in an acceptable format as an inspection certificate, and provide some percentages and precise descriptions of what I was looking at? (Remember, no internet, no digital cameras, yet!) Well, I had plants, in bunches, in plastic crates. What did it look like? Green onions. The sample for green onions is 25 bunches per carton. What scores on green onions? Decay, bruising, off-colour and discolouration. I had off-colour as a lack of green colour, and some dark discolouration.  Those were two things that I could record and report in percentages, with general terms to describe how many “leaves” were affected per bunch. Another problem solved.

If you have been looking at produce for a few years, you probably came to the same conclusion.  If you are relatively new to the industry, we want you to stay with us! There is usually some sort of logic in what we do. Consider the resources that are available to you. If it’s on your table, someone bought it. If they bought it, they probably had some type of specifications that they sent to the vendor in advance: size, count, colour, freshness, firmness, brix, etc. Quality assurance should already have copies of your internal spec sheets.

Next month, I will look at some specific commodities and how to “borrow” information used to inspect some commodities and apply it to others. Remember, this is not science. We are simply looking for ways to communicate with others in ways that are clear and fair to all parties.