What Size is this Stuff Supposed to be?

What Size is this Stuff Supposed to be? 

Feb 28, 2019 | Jeff Honey


How much do you know about sizes on US fruits and vegetables?  “How much is there to know?” you ask.  Well, here is a little test for you.  Let’s see how well you do.

You receive a load of California navel oranges.  The carton is stamped size 72, but the boxes don’t look full.  What do you do?  You check the USDA Inspection Instructions for California/Arizona Citrus Fruit.  It says that: “Conformance to size requirements is generally not a problem unless the pack is slack or fruit in the container appears irregularly sized. Use the term “fairly uniform” if a lot meets size requirements, “irregular” if size requirements are not met. Do not use the term “uniform” when describing size since the term is not defined. The definition of fairly uniform is specified in the Standard Pack section of each standard and also listed at the end of this handbook section. When determining size (e.g.,113 size oranges or 64 size grapefruit, etc.), report a range and average diameter. To meet the requirements of fairly uniform, the smallest and largest fruit in a sample must be measured using a rigid-jaw caliper. To determine diameter, the greatest dimension measured at right angles to a line from stem to blossom end shall be used. Rotate fruit in the caliper to obtain the greatest dimension.”  Your take-away? If it isn’t “fairly uniform”, it’s “irregular”.  Size is a permanent defect, so let the buyer deal with it.

If your Washington cherries come in marked 10 Row and Up, they have to be 67/64” and up.  The tolerance for off-size is 5%.  If you have 8% undersize, a permanent defect, let the buyer deal with it.  That was easy.

How about that load of Thompson seedless grapes?  There is no size declared on the carton, but the Confirmation of Sale (COS) document states “Medium”.  The USDA Inspection Instructions for table grapes state that a medium Thompson Seedless must fall between 10/16” and 12/16”.  If the COS document also says that they are US No. 1, size is determined by individual bunch.  At least 75% of the berries on each bunch have to be 10/16” and up, so you need more than 25% of the berries on each bunch to be under 10/16” for that individual bunch to fail for size.  There is also a 10% separate tolerance by weight for undersize bunches.  Get comfortable.  You’re going to be sizing grapes for a while.

Finally, my favourite: green peppers.  The COS document calls for Extra Large.  The boxes are marked Extra Large.  Simple, right?  Not so fast.  The United States Standards for Grades of Sweet Peppers state in paragraph 51.3271(a): “Size. Unless otherwise specified, the diameter of each pepper shall be not less than 2-1/2 inches and the length of each pepper shall be not less than 2-1/2 inches.”  That means that the shipper can put 95 green peppers in each box marked Extra Large as long as they are at least 2 ½” x 2 ½”.  If the COS document did not specify: “Extra Large, 50-55 count per carton”, you own them! How did you do on this little test?  If you scored four out of four, you don’t need to attend one of our training seminars for quality control.  If you scored less than four out of four, then perhaps you should watch the OPMA website for their next set of seminars.