Ready To Eat? Maybe Not...
You may (or may not) want to know how they do it... The following contains some data from USDA studies. The main methods of "preserving freshness" (quite an oxymoron) fall into two major categories:
Here are some chemical agents used to wash cut fruits and veggies. They're mainly used to control microorganism growth - why mold and bacteria don't grow on these delectable looking products - and to preserve the visual appeal of the product ("antibrowning agents" and things that "slow decay").
Acidified sodium chlorite (ASC) - sanitizing agent on cut carrots
PQSL 2.0 - "breakthrough for wash solutions because it not only maintains an apple slice's color, firmness, aroma and flavor, but also reduces levels of Listeria and Salmonella bacteria."
Calcium ascorbate dip – prevents browning on apple slices
1-Methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) - a gas treatment that slows decay, used on apples, tomatoes, avocadoes and more; has been shown to penetrate watermelon rind to prevent degredation, which "can buy extra time for shipping and prolong a product's selling season."
And apparently, manufacturers are warned that "wash solutions lost their antimicrobial activity over time, and should not be reused on multiple batches of produce.” But fear not, "research is underway to find a way to maintain the antimicrobial properties of wash treatments." Yum - A chemical wash that won't loose it's chemical-ness with time. Let me just say that I have no problem with big business using and developing new methods that will help them stay competitive and earn a profit. Ready-to-eat things are all the rage as people have less time and less inclination to prepare their own foods, and businesses that make these need to be able to offer a product that will look good and sell well. And consumers are partly responsible - you can't have unadulterated fresh fruit that also sits on a shelf without rotting, and the fact that we demand this makes us partly responsible for the evolution (or mutation!) of food industry practices.
The only problem is that I doubt that Joe Schmoe really knows what manufacturers put into his ready-to-eat food, and I believe that he at least has the right to know. That juicy cantaloupe that Joe's about to bite into is deceptively like a fresh-cut cantaloupe, except that it's bewn processed and dipped in some pretty strange materials. And if Joe's OK with that, more power to him - that's Joe's choice. It's just that the Joes of the world should have the option of knowing what's been done with their food.