Food quality and safety of solar dried fruits and vegetables in the Butha-Buthe district, Lesotho.
This study investigated the quality and safety of solar dried fruits and vegetables produced by households in three locations in the Butha-Buthe district of Lesotho from November 2002 to March 2003. The aim of the study was to enhance year round availability of fruits and vegetables and reduce post-harvest losses, contributing to increased food availability and accessibility in the district. The study analysed the quality and safety of dried fruits and vegetables by assessing the processing techniques applied by the respondents during the production of dried fruits and vegetables, analysing the quality of dried fruits and vegetable samples produced by the study respondents using Appropriate Technology Section (ATS) solar driers, and by identifying the constraints that hamper the improvement of quality and safety of solar dried fruits and vegetables in the study area. Data was collected through focus group discussions, interviews, and laboratory food quality analysis of dried fruit and vegetable samples provided by the respondents. The dried fruits and vegetables produced by the respondents were of low quality due to poor processing techniques and unhygienic practices that increased chances of contamination and deterioration during processing and storage. Lack of processing skills and information, particularly on quality and safety standards, and weak extension support contributed to poor product. For the respondents to improve the quality and safety of dried fruits and vegetables, they need training and support with respect to quality and safety that includes training on the importance of food safety, best processing and storage practices and marketing of dried produce.