Last week, while in a training class, we came upon some tomatoes showing moldy clayxes and stems. Of course the question came up about the scoring guideline, for moldy stems on tomatoes and on cluster tomatoes.
The class and I thought it may go a few ways, for instance:
- Score the defect as serious damage, for all tomatoes.
- Score as a defect on cluster tomatoes only, since the attached stem is prominent
- Score as a defect on all tomatoes, against the decay tolerance
Wanting to be sure of the correct answer I looked up the scoring guide in the USDA’s inspection instruction manual. We were wrong on all counts. The USDA’s inspection instructions state to score as damage only, when the mold materially detracts from the appearance. This guideline applies to all tomatoes, including plum, grape and cherry tomatoes, but not for Cluster Tomatoes. We were all surprised.
But it gets crazier. If the mold is actually turning into decay, then the tomato is scored as decayed stems, but not against the decay tolerance, but against the tolerance for serious damage. OK, one would think decayed stems on cluster tomatoes would be scored this way too, as a serious damage defect. But no, moldy or decayed stems on cluster tomatoes is not scored as a defect at all.
I’m not sure of their reasoning, but if anyone has any ideas as to why, feel free to comment. I know a class full of people are wondering …why?