Tomatoes [German version]

Table of contents

Product information
  Container transport
  Cargo securing

Risk factors and loss prevention:
Temperature Odor
Humidity/Moisture Contamination
Ventilation Mechanical influences
Biotic activity Toxicity / Hazards to health
Gases Shrinkage/Shortage
Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion Insect infestation / Diseases

Product information

Product name

German Tomaten
English Tomatoes
French Tomates
Spanish Tomates
Scientific Lycopersicon lycopersicum
CN/HS number * 0702 00 ff.

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)

Product description

Tomatoes are juicy berry fruits of the nightshade family (Solanaceae). They came originally from Central and South America and were brought back to Europe by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1498.

The fruits of the numerous cultivated types of tomato are a fiery scarlet, orange-red or yellow color and are generally large and often of a highly flattened, and sometimes peripherally lobed, appearance. However, they are frequently also spherical, oval or even pear-shaped.

Tomatoes are subdivided into four main varieties depending on color, shape, weight, size and cultivation method:

Round (spherical) tomatoes: these are the most widely used, round, smooth, generally red tomatoes intended for fresh consumption.
Beef tomatoes: these are larger than round tomatoes and are often also called ribbed tomatoes because of their shape. They are mostly used in the processing industry, but are sometimes also eaten fresh.
Cherry tomatoes: the name points to the similarity in shape and size to cherries. Cherry tomatoes are of a higher quality than round tomatoes and beef tomatoes.
Plum tomatoes: a thick-fleshed variety, low in seeds, again used both for fresh consumption and processing.

Tomatoes, which are picked when green, post-ripen subsequently so obtaining their red color (lycopene and carotene content). Their typical aroma is unable to develop fully, however. The best time for harvesting tomatoes differs depending on their intended use (e.g. duration of transport). Outdoor tomatoes have higher nutrient contents than greenhouse tomatoes.

Quality / Duration of storage

Quality and suitability for transport are assessed on the basis of the following criteria. Tomatoes must be sound, clean, fresh, undamaged, free of foreign odors and flavors and free of abnormal moisture. Round, smooth varieties must be of uniform size and ripeness. They must be of a firm consistency and free from hard tops and unripe areas and have no empty seed chambers.

Organoleptic testing: tomatoes exhibit a satisfactorily firm consistency if they are not deformed at all by cutting with a sharp knife at right angles to the placenta and the content of the seed chambers does not ooze out. Hard tops are present if finger pressure on the stem-end indicates hardening of the flesh of the fruit (pulp) over clearly defined areas generally green in color.

Various sources state maximum duration of storage as follows:

Temperature Rel. humidity Max. duration of storage Source
10 – 12°C 85% approx. 14 days [1]
10°C 80 – 85% 8 – 10 days [2]
8 – 10°C 80 – 85% 7 – 14 days [5]

Where controlled atmosphere transport is used, the transport and storage duration of tomatoes may be extended. The following parameters apply in such a case [16]:

Designation Temperature Rel. humidity O2 CO2 Suitability for controlled atmosphere
green, unripe tomatoes 12.8 – 14.4°C 90 – 95% 3 – 5% 0% good
pink tomatoes 10.0 – 11.1°C 90 – 95% 3 – 5% 0 – 3% good

Intended use

Tomatoes are mainly eaten raw (for fresh consumption, in salads and starters).

Tomatoes are also processed industrially to produce tomato puree, tomato paste, peeled tomatoes, canned tomatoes, tomato chutney, tomato ketchup and tomato juice.


(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

Drawing, tomatoes

Figure 1
Photo, cherry tomatoes

Figure 2
Photo, tomatoes

Figure 3
Drawing, tomatoes

Figure 4

Countries of origin

This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.

Europe Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Canary Islands, Belgium, Italy, France, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania, Russia
Africa Morocco, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Algeria
Asia China
America USA, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile

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Tomatoes are packaged in open and closed fruit crates (tomato crates), tubs, cartons, trays and jointed boxes. Sometimes they are carefully arranged, sometimes randomly bulk-packed. Broken, damaged and damp packages must be rejected.

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Symbol, general cargo

General cargo
Symbol, temperature-controlled


Means of transport

Ship, truck, railroad, aircraft

Container transport

Refrigerated container with fresh air supply or controlled atmosphere.

Cargo handling

Because of its impact- and pressure-sensitivity, the fruit has to be handled with appropriate care.

The required refrigeration temperature must always be maintained, even during cargo handling.

In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, as there is otherwise a risk of premature spoilage.

Stowage factor

1.80 m3/t (paperboard carton) [1]
3.30 m3/t (solid wooden jointed box) [1]
1.95 – 2.09 m3/t (cartons, boxes, trays) [11], [14]

Stowage space requirements

Cool, dry, good ventilation


Marker pen, oil crayon, fiber rope, thin fiber nets

Cargo securing

Because of its considerable impact- and pressure-sensitivity, packages of this cargo must be secured in such a way that they are prevented from damaging each other. Spaces between packages or pallets must be filled, to prevent slippage or tipping. By selecting the correct packaging size or cargo unit (area module or area module multiple), holds can be tightly loaded (without spaces).

Photo, tomatoes

Figure 5

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Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

Tomatoes require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

A written cooling order must be obtained from the consignor before loading is begun. This order must always be complied with during the entire transport chain.

The following Table merely constitutes an estimate of appropriate temperature ranges. Temperatures may deviate from these values, depending on the particular transport conditions.

Designation Temperature range Source
Travel temperature 10 – 12°C [1]
10°C [2]
12 – 13°C [14]
Three-quarters ripe, fully colored, firm fruit 11°C [1]
8 – 10°C [5]
Semiripe fruit with incipient red-coloring 12 – 15°C [5]
Green fruit 12°C [1]
18 – 20°C [5]
10 – 12.5°C [11]

The cargo and holds/containers should be precooled prior to loading.

Chilling damage may occur at pulp temperatures < 10°C, green tomatoes being more at risk than ripe ones. According to [12], tomatoes must never be stored below 0°C. Even refrigerated storage leads to loss of aroma.

Overcooled fruits become soft, their skin takes on a brown color (inhibited carotene synthesis) and they lose flavor.

Temperatures > 25°C inhibit lycopene synthesis (red pigment).

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RF Humidity/Moisture

Tomatoes require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Designation Humidity/water content Source
Relative humidity 85% [1]
80 – 85% [5]
85 – 90% (for post-ripening of green tomatoes) [5]
80 – 85% 14]
Water content 94 – 97% [1]
Maximum equilibrium moisture content 90% [1]

At rel. humidities < 80%, tomatoes lose weight and their quality is degraded by evaporation.

At rel. humidities > 90% there is considerable risk of mold growth and rot.

During cooling of the product, a rel. humidity of < 80% should be maintained, to check any possibility of mold attack initially by the low rel. humidity and subsequently by a low travel temperature. After the reduction period, the rel. humidity should be increased to the values indicated above, to prevent drying-out of the product and thus greater weight and quality loss.

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RF Ventilation

Tomatoes require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Recommended ventilation conditions: circulating air, 40 – 60 circulations/hour with continuous supply of fresh air.

The circulating fans must be set to full power. The supply of fresh air depends on the CO2 content of the hold/container air, which should amount to 1 vol.% at most.

During the voyage, tomatoes must be stored under well-ventilated conditions, so that evaporation does not cause humidity to increase to above the recommended values and ripening gases, such as carbon dioxide and ethylene, can be dissipated.

To ensure good airing, the packaging units should be stacked upright and on top of one another. In the case of horizontal airflow in the hold or container, the cargo should be stowed leaving horizontal channels.

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RF Biotic activity

Tomatoes display 2nd order biotic activity.

They are living organs in which respiration processes predominate, because their supply of new nutrients has been cut off by separation from the parent plant.

Care of the cargo during the voyage must be aimed at controlling respiration processes (release of CO2, water vapor, ethylene and heat) in such a way that the cargo is at the desired stage of ripeness on reaching its destination. Inadequate ventilation may result in fermentation and rotting of the cargo as a result of increased CO2 levels and inadequate supply of atmospheric oxygen (see Ventilation).

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RF Gases

CO2 evolution In tomatoes, metabolic processes continue even after harvesting. The fruit absorb oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide and ethylene.
Upper limit of permissible CO2 content 0.2 vol.%
Ethylene evolution  
Active behavior Tomatoes produce moderate quantities of ethylene, their ethylene production rate being 1.0 – 10.0 µl/kg*h [16]. They cause cucumbers to turn yellow and cauliflower to lose its firm consistency.
Passive behavior The sensitivity of tomatoes to ethylene may be classified as high [16]. They must not therefore be stored together with ethylene-producing goods (allelopathy).

If ventilation has been inadequate (frost) or has failed owing to a defect, life-threatening CO2 concentrations or O2 shortages may arise. Therefore, before anybody enters the hold, it must be ventilated and a gas measurement carried out. The TLV for CO2 concentration is 0.49 vol.%. To prevent the quality of the tomatoes from being degraded, the CO2 content of the hold air should not exceed 0.2 vol.%.

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RF Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion

No risk.

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RF Odor

Active behavior Tomatoes have a very slight, pleasant odor.
Passive behavior Tomatoes are highly odor-sensitive in relation to other goods. Boxes must be made of resin-free wood, as odor tainting may otherwise occur.

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RF Contamination

Active behavior Tomatoes do not cause contamination.
Passive behavior Tomatoes are sensitive to contamination by dirt, fats and oils. The holds or containers must accordingly be clean and in a thoroughly hygienic condition before loading.

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RF Mechanical influences

Tomatoes are highly pressure- and impact-sensitive and are therefore generally packaged with particularly high levels of impact protection (e.g. wood wool liners).

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RF Toxicity / Hazards to health

If ventilation has been inadequate (frost) or has failed owing to a defect, life-threatening CO2 concentrations or O2 shortages may arise. Therefore, before anybody enters the hold, it must be ventilated and a gas measurement carried out. The TLV for CO2 concentration is 0.49 vol.%.

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RF Shrinkage/Shortage

Drying-out of the cargo may cause weight losses of 2 – 3%.

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RF Insect infestation / Diseases

Chilling damaged green fruit stored for a relatively long period is at particular risk of rot. Considerable losses are caused by Alternaria fruit rot (Alternaria porri) among other things. Symptoms: sunken, blackish areas of rot at the stem-end, covering of dull black fungus mat, especially on green fruit.

Losses also arise as a result of gray mold rot, which is caused by the mold Botrytis cinerea. The fruit acquires large dark rot spots, on the surface of which a gray, dusty mold very rapidly develops. The fruit then rots very quickly.

Drawing, tomatoes

Figure 6

Tomatoes may also fall victim to tomato green shoulder.

The quarantine regulations of the country of destination must be complied with and a phytosanitary certificate may have to be enclosed with the shipping documents. Information may be obtained from the phytosanitary authorities of the countries concerned.

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