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My wife and I are having a debate similar to this one:

I claim that it's better to take the fresh veggies out of the bags and put them in the crisper with humidity control because:

  1. That's what the crisper with humidity control is for.
  2. If they are in the (plastic) bag, the humidity control is pointless.
  3. It's easier to notice vegetables in their early stage of rotting (it doesn't feel right to throw out an entire bag of rotten cucumbers or zucchinis before we got a chance to enjoy them).
  4. It's more pleasing to the eye. It's more convenient.

She claims that it's better to leave the fresh veggies in their supermarket bags when putting them in the fridge because she could swear she noticed that they rot more slowly when left in their bags.

As you can see from the few links in this question, I tried to conduct my own search on the subject, but all answers seem to be opinions or "experiences", not an authoritative answer based on scientific research or knowledge.

So I am hoping that with the help of biology professionals (or students) I can finally find an authoritative answer to the question: Do vegetables really last longer if they are kept in their (supermarket) plastic bags when put in the crisper?

Update: I found this formal excerpt from the refrigerator's manual:

Low (open) lets moist air out of the crisper for best storage of fruits and vegetables with skins.

  • Fruit: Wash, let dry and store in refrigerator in plastic bag or crisper. Do not wash or hull berries until they are ready to use. Sort and keep berries in original container in crisper, or store in a loosely closed paper bag on a refrigerator shelf.
  • Vegetables with skins: Place in plastic bag or plastic container and store in crisper.

High (closed) keeps moist air in the crisper for best storage of fresh, leafy vegetables.

  • Leafy vegetables: Wash in cold water, drain and trim or tear off bruised and discolored areas. Place in plastic bag or plastic container and store in crisper.

While this seems a bit more authoritative (because it comes from the manufacturer of the refrigerator), it still leaves quite a few questions open:

If leafy vegetables should be "placed in plastic bag or plastic container and stored in crisper", why set the humidity on "High"? How does humidity get the lettuce inside the plastic bag or plastic container? (is it sealed?)

Assuming that some humidity does get into the bag, why is the bag needed? Why not let humidity flow freely?

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3  
Apples and other kinds of fruit use ethene as a hormone which promotes ripening. They give it off themselves and they also utilise it themselves - but it can affect fruit around them once it's in the air. I don't know whether vegetables use the same mechanism but maybe that will lead you to find some things. –  Armatus May 13 '12 at 23:05
    
@Armatus That's a great tip. I wish I had enough points to vote your comment up. To simplify my question I am trying to stay focused on vegetables only, but the truth is that we use the refrigerator's crisper for both fruits and vegetables. Your answer may hint that if we keep each fruit/vegetable in its own bag, perhaps that will slow down ripening/rotting? If so, by how long? This is truly intriguing. –  Eternal Learner May 14 '12 at 0:31
    
If you only store one kind of fruit, it wouldn't do much - they wouldn't "pool" their ethene anymore but they would still accumulate their own in their bag. But if you separate different kinds of fruits with bags, it can keep apples from making bananas go bad quickly. I haven't actually read this in a scientific context though, I'm not sure where I got it from :) –  Armatus May 14 '12 at 7:11
    
You may want to make a scientific experiment with your own fridge. That would be the most authoritative source for your own conditions. Just split the same veggies in two groups (with or without bag) and consume them after few days. Replicate the experiment at least three times. If you find differences, you have the evidence. If you don't find differences, forget the conundrum and make peace with your wife. –  Gianpaolo R May 14 '12 at 12:08
    
If you put ripen fruits together with fruits that use the same hormones for maturation in the same bag, they will all mature quicker than they would if you keep the unripe ones in a separate bag. There are roughly 4-5 classes fruits by their hormones, although new subclasses and mechanisms are still being discovered. –  149781-32509185 Jun 13 '12 at 13:29

1 Answer 1

Based on what I've been able to locate on the USDA website: Refrigeration & Food Safety

It would be better to take the foods out of the bags and put them in the crisper if you're using the crisper solely for vegetables:

Some refrigerators have special features such as adjustable shelves, door bins, crispers, and meat/cheese drawers. These features are designed to make storage of foods more convenient and to provide an optimal storage environment for fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, and cheese.

And:

Sealed crisper drawers provide an optimal storage environment for fruits and vegetables. Vegetables require higher humidity conditions while fruits require lower humidity conditions. Some crispers are equipped with controls to allow the consumer to customize each drawer’s humidity level.

Therefore, keeping your stuff in the bag would negate the purpose of these specialized compartments. Too bad the USDA doesn't specifically address the issue of bags...

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