International Produce Training

Cherries- Pebbling

Well, the USDA has come out with a new defect for sweet cherries.  You will not find this mentioned in the U.S. Standards, nor will you find any reference to this in their inspection instructions.  Pebbling will now be scored when the surface of the cherry is showing a rough or pebbled texture.  The image below was distributed by the USDA to identify this defect:

Have you seen this before?  During my 30 plus years as a USDA inspector I encountered this “pebbing” on many occassions.  No one in the USDA scored this as a defect, and I never heard a receiver complain about the cherries having a rough texture.  After contacting  5 current inspectors, all with experience ranging from 20 to 30 years, no one had ever thought this should be scored as a defect, or remembered an applicant (receiver) complaining about this.  Most everyone felt the pebbling was characteristic of the variety, and did not detract from the appearance.  So I am not sure where this new scoring guideline is coming from.  I am sure the U.S. cherry growers/shippers were never consulted before making this decsion.

If you encounter this in future inspections, the cherries are usually hard to firm, and the pebbling may show varying degrees, affecting 33 to 100% of the surface, some being more pebbled than others.  I have never seen the pebbling progress, and the flesh and the taste of the cherry is not affected.

It would have been a good idea if the USDA offered some clear scoring guidelines to help inspectors determine if a cherry with a rough texture would be a defect.  The guideline is:  Score as damage when the affected area is distinct and readily noticeable, and score as serious damage if the affected area seriously detracts from the appearance.  Hopefully the USDA will issue some visual aids soon.  Unfortunately they have not stated if the cherries shown above would be scored as a defect, scored as damage, or scored as serious damage.

As a shipper, I would suggest requesting digital images of any pebbling scored as a defect on your inspection reports.  As a receiver, check with your buyer/manager to see if you should score pebbling as a defect…….if it hasn’t bothered anyone for the last 50 years, why would it be a problem now?

4 Comments on “Cherries- Pebbling”

Jeff Provost Says:

I’m not sure if this is the same as “pitting”, which I have scored against for the last 4 years. I, as well as consumers, also found it to be detracting from appearacne for the 20+ years, that I worked at retail level.

Mike Says:

Clearly you are stating to be outdated. This is clearly not Characteristic of the variety. At least do a little bit of research before you write stuff like that, people actually listen to you so you have a moral duty to give adequate info.

KM Says:

This defect was added after numerous receivers (primarily importers), complained. It generally affects the “smoothness” of the cherry (which there is nothing mentioned in the standards as a basic requirement). Before this I have often heard of receivers (applicants) complaining about this condition.

Peter Says:

It is now 2020 and I am wondering if the USDA has yet to address this issue

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