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Packaging potatoes for consumer convenience

Add sliced potatoes to the growing list of branded, prepared produce packaged in flexible films for refrigerated display in the supermarket. Launched in the first week of January were four varieties of Fresh From The Start® potatoes from 50/50 partners Maine Packing of Caribou, ME, and Fresh From The Start LLC of Riverhead, NY.
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Packaged in 2-lb portions the potatoes sell for $2.49 in Midwest and New England supermarkets. Like "fresh-cut" salads broccoli and cauliflower these potatoes are value-added items aimed at harried consumers who don't have time to wash and cut their own vegetables. But "fresh-cut" doesn't quite apply this time because the potatoes are partially cooked or blanched so that only 10-12 minutes of boiling is required in the home. Microwave cooking is also an option. Also setting the potatoes apart from their fresh-cut cousins is the packaging material used. While fresh-cut produce is packaged in semi-permeable films that permit the food's respiration to continue Fresh From The Start potatoes come in a film that performs like a vault. It incorporates a barrier layer of polyvinylidene chloride-coated polyester. In packaging ambient air is evacuated the bag is backflushed with a carbon dioxide/nitrogen gas mixture to retard spoilage and then the bag is securely sealed. The barrier structure maintains the internal atmosphere throughout the 21-day shelf life. (Darkening of the potatoes and mold formation are inhibited by adding commonly used preservatives.) Supplied by Cryovac (Duncan SC) the packaging film also includes a layer of metallocene polyethylene that functions as a sealant. Maine Packing runs the material on a vertical form/fill/seal system.

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