International Produce Training

Tomatoes- Sunburn

A few of my posts have taken issue with the USDA not being specific, as to scoring guidelines, to ensure uniformity, for many defects.  Whether the defect is considered damage or not a defect is left up to the judgement of the individual inspector.

The defect sunburn, on tomatoes, may go the other way.  When reviewing the U.S. Grade Standards for Tomatoes there is no mention of the scoring guidelines for sunburn.  But upon reading the USDA Inspection Instructions for Tomatoes there is a very specific guideline as to when you score sunburn as a defect, and when you don’t.

The following images depict sunburn in varying degrees.

Image 1

Image 1

The sunburn shown on the above image (Image 1) is very typical.  The yellow discoloration is usually isolated to the shoulders and/or to one side of the tomato, the side of the tomato facing the sun, when growing.

Image 2

Image 2

On the Plum or Roma tomatoes (Image 2) the sunburn is found around the stem scar, or along the “sun” side of the tomato.

Image 3

Image 3

In extreme cases (Image 3), on many tomatoes  found in my garden, the yellow discoloration is very obvious and the underlying flesh may also be affected.

The scoring guideline is not subject to objectivity.  The USDA Inspection Instructions state the tomato is scored as a damage by sunburn when the area affected exceeds 20% of the surface area.  Although most consumers would pick up all the tomatoes in the above images, they would also most likely put them down and choose a tomato without the sunburn, or yellow discoloration.

Image 4

Image 4

To demonstrate what 2o% of the surface would encompass, Image 4 shows you the area that would be allowed for sunburn.  The yellow color would be aggregated, meaning you would merge all the yellow together and imagine if the total area affected would exceed the area of 20%.  For example, in Image 4, would all the yellow exceed the 20% area?  The answer is no, and aside from the growth crack, this tomato would not be a defect of the U.S. No. 1 Grade, due to sunburn.  In fact only the two tomatoes, in Image 3 would be considered as being defects of the U.S. No. 1 Grade.  All the other tomatoes in the above images would not be defects.

10 Comments on “Tomatoes- Sunburn”

Red Hot Chili Peppers Says:

Outstanding website!!!!! Excellent venue for
fresh product branch inspectors to find
helpful information and exchange thoughts
about their profession via the internet.
Wonder why the fresh products branch
hasn’t thought about doing the same
thing? Keep up the good work!!!

Dog Bonz Says:

Peppers, you know the answer to your own question…..they are too busy shutting down offices and raising inspection fees to worry about doing something helpful to the industry. How times have changed, the USDA used to be a valuable service. What has happened during the past few years?

I've been there Says:

The FPB is just like “the Old Gray Mare.”
She ain’t what she used to be. It is what
it is .. a confused clueless mess.

Just the facts Says:

The FPB is just like the Old Gray Mare.
She ain’t what she used to be. It is what
it is. The major decline in inspection request
has been occuring for several years. As was
reported in an article from a “cuts
of the destination inspection service because
user fees have not kept pace with expenses.”
That is a partial quote from AMS officials as
stated in the article. If what the AMS officials
claim in the article is not accurate, then who
can inspectors and industry representatives
believe? Just out of respect for the AMS
officials, one should believe that they, if anyone,
must know what the future is for the FPB.
That said, I’ll let the quote speak for itself.

Anonymous Says:

I had some tomatoes we shipped to Hunts Point inspected, where the inspector scored sunburn on the certificate. After seeing these pictures, and seeing what is allowed, I have to question if the USDA inspector was scoring the defect correctly. No way the tomatoes were showing that much sunburn over the shoulders. Too late now, but I will be watching future inspections. Thanks.

JaneRadriges Says:

Hi, very nice post. I have been wonder’n bout this issue,so thanks for posting

KonstantinMiller Says:

You know so many interesting infomation. You might be very wise. I like such people. Don’t stop writing.

Phil Says:

To the poster that wrote on July 6th ….

What on earth are you talking about?

mercerd Says:

interesting material, where such topics do you find? I will often go

Quick Facts Says:

Maybe you could change the webpage name Tomatoes- Sunburn | International Produce Training to more suited for your content you write. I loved the blog post still.

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