A study was conducted to investigate the effects of various doses of irradiation on the quality of fresh-cut iceberg lettuce and to determine a suitable maximum dose. Fresh-cut iceberg lettuce packaged in film bags was exposed to 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 kGy of gamma radiation and stored at 3°C for 14 days. CO2 levels were higher and O2 levels were lower in packages containing irradiated lettuce than in those containing nonirradiated lettuce for most of the storage period. Comparison with nonirradiated lettuce indicated that total ascorbic acid (ascorbic acid plus dehydroascorbic acid) content and firmness were not significantly influenced by irradiation at 1 or 2 kGy. The overall visual appearance was best for lettuce irradiated at 1 or 2 kGy. This improved quality may be related to the high CO2 and low O2 levels observed for the irradiated samples. Electrolyte leakage for lettuce increased with higher radiation doses and was correlated (R2 = 0.99) with a soggy appearance. The leakage for lettuce irradiated at ≥2 kGy was significantly more extensive than that for nonirradiated lettuce. The irradiation of fresh-cut lettuce in modified atmosphere packages at doses of 1 kGy and perhaps 2 kGy for safety enhancement and quality improvement is feasible.
†Mention of a brand or firm name does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture over others of a similar nature not mentioned.