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Fridges add freshness features but it's up to you to use them

Consumer Reports News: May 06, 2011 01:10 PM

Food freshness is big business for today's refrigerator manufacturers. GE's ClimateKeeper system promises to "help keep your food fresh longer, stretching your grocery dollars." Bosch touts its VitaFresh technology, Viking has its Plasmacluster Ion Air Purifier, and LG's Push 'N Seal crisper drawer uses a vacuum to "keep your produce fresh."

Whirlpool recently visited the Consumer Reports headquarters in Yonkers, New York to unveil its latest technology: the FreshFlow Produce Preserver, which will be in select models starting this year. The technology consists of ethylene absorption packets located in crisper drawers. The packets contain potassium permanganate, an oxidizing agent that neutralizes ethylene, which causes fruit to ripen and vegetables to go soft. Whirlpool claims that FreshFlow will make produce last 25 percent longer, though only if you remember to replace the packets every six months or so.

Consumer Reports hasn't tested the FreshFlow Produce Preserver. In general, specific freshness claims are difficult to measure, though our comprehensive performance tests indicate how well a refrigerator maintains consistent temperatures throughout its main compartment, meat compartment (if applicable), and freezer. We also measure the ability of crisper drawers to retain moisture. Watch this video from our refrigerator test lab for more details.

If you're shopping for a new refrigerator, we recommend you look past the freshness claims for a model with excellent temperature performance in our Ratings. Also consider refrigerators with dual evaporators, which we've found maintain higher humidity levels in the fresh food section. In addition to FreshFlow, Whirlpool is launching the first sequential dual evaporators, in which a control valve between the evaporators prevents the sharing of air and refrigerant between the freezer and refrigerator. That results in an industry leading 75-percent relative humidity, claims Whirlpool.

Even if your new refrigerator benefits from such enhancements, don't underestimate the importance of proper food storage. Whirlpool admitted that food preservation technologies wouldn't be necessary if consumers followed best practices, for example keeping ethylene-producing apples separate from ethylene-sensitive broccoli. Read "Tip of the Day: How to store fresh fruits and vegetables" for our item-specific advice.

Daniel DiClerico

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