Wonky bananas could find their way onto Australian supermarket shelves

Posted by Isobel Drake on 7th January 2010

Every year millions of edible Queensland bananas become fertiliser as they don’t meet retail standards by being either too straight, too small or discoloured. However, this may soon be a thing of the past as Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries (QPIF) is working with CSIRO to find ways of using these “reject” bananas for innovative, processed products.

Acting Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland, Peter Lawlor, said Queenslanders are spoiled for choice when it comes to fresh produce.

“Each year more than 100,000 tonnes of bananas that don’t make it past the packing shed are chopped up and spread back over plantations as fertiliser,” he reported. “Bananas don’t meet the high standards required by retailers if they’re smaller, an imperfect shape or just don’t look good enough because of discolouration.

“They’re perfectly good to eat but they would be passed over by shoppers for fruit with a more ideal appearance.”

Some of this fruit is used in small scale processing, the Minister advised, while some is redirected toward fermentation trials, but the researchers believe there could be some better options in the food processing sector.

A project team is now looking at how new processing technologies may help the industry utilise rejected bananas.

“We want to develop improved or new products, such as chilled shelf stable sliced banana and extruded banana snacks,” Mr Lawlor advised. “The gross wholesale value of production of bananas for the 2008-09 season is approximately $410 million.

“The industry has made a full recovery from the destruction of Cyclone Larry and we want to increase the worth of the industry by utilizing waste bananas.”

QPIF researcher Dr Kent Fanning said the project team needed specific information on the quality, location and amount of waste fruit that is available.

“We will consult with the banana industry, growers and food processors to gain a more detailed picture,” he stated. “We need to know if there are any other limitations that would prevent successful processing into food products.

“After identifying what we think are the best commercial options, we will conduct feasibility assessments prior to making recommendations to the food industry on how to use waste bananas for commercial success and wider community benefits.

“It’s a very exciting project that we expect will provide a pathway for growers, food processing and food service industries to deliver some interesting new commercial products while minimising waste in our valuable banana industry.”

The project is expected to conclude by the end of the year.