The relevance of fruit and vegetables extends as they play a pivotal role in promoting EU consumers' health, thus reducing costs associated to obesity, cardio-vascular and other social diseases. To meet this demand a reliable supply of safe and fresh food products is required, particularly concerning ready-to-eat composite fruit and vegetable products, which are expected to meet the demand of consumers with new lifestyles.
EU agricultural industry sustainability depends to a major extent on its capability to introduce new, ready-to-eat fresh and composite fruit and vegetable products. This, in turn, requires significant improvement in produce cleaning and packaging technologies to ensure food quality and safety, reduced input of water/energy and enhancing waste recyclability. Washing and packing are the most critical stages in fruit and vegetable processing both in fresh products and in the fresh-cut range since they are closely related to safety and the shelf life of the final product. Food safety problems are exemplified by the fact that during the last two years, the number of notifications for pathogens and pesticides and related chemicals rose by 80% according to the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASSF). The food scandals that have occurred during the last decade have increased consumers' nervousness and awareness, leading to calls for tighter food safety along the food chain. As a result, new food safety has also become a core competitive competency of the major market players in their competition for consumers.