(Feb. 9) As Americans eat out more — foodservice sales are expected to hit a record $511 billion this year — restaurants are looking for quicker and safer ways of getting fresh fruits and vegetables to their customers.

That’s where fresh-cut processing equipment makers like Maxwell Chase Technologies LLC come in. The Atlanta-based company is known primarily for its trays that extend shelf life and other varieties of packaging.

In the case of one commodity, however, Maxwell Chase discovered that its fresh-cut packaging could be more effective if the company also controlled what happened to the product before it went into the package.

Thus was born the MCT 25 tomato slicer, a machine that can slice six tomatoes per cycle, with seven slices per tomato, yielding 42 slices per cycle.

Maxwell Chase rolled out the MCT 25 at the 2005 International Fresh-cut Produce Association convention in Phoenix. Michael Walsh, spokesman, said the slicer uses 70% of each tomato it slices, a rate higher than those of its competitors.

The MCT 25 has been upgraded to make it compatible with automated pick-and-place machines, Walsh said. That increases the slicer’s capacity from 800 pounds of tomatoes per hour to 1,200 pounds per hour, he added.

Maxwell Chase also has added an automatic sanitizing system to the MCT 25. After each tomato is sliced, the blades of the slicer are automatically cleaned, Walsh said. That means that if a contaminated tomato passes through the processor, the slicer won’t contaminate the tomatoes that follow it.

Maxwell Chase intends to release a larger version of the MCT 25 this summer designed for the company’s fast-food customers and other customers that use large volumes of tomatoes, Walsh said.

APPLES, PINEAPPLES

Jarvis Products Corp., Middletown, Conn., is the North American distributor for a German company, Kronen, that makes apple and pineapple processors.

Jarvis has sold the Tona Rapid XL pineapple processor for a little more than a year, said Kevin Chamberlain, sales manager. It can core and peel (and slice, if customers request it) 2,400 pineapples per hour, he said. Chamberlain added that he doesn’t know of another product on the market that can turn out that much product that fast.

Its sister machine, the Tona Rapid, processes apples. On the market for about five years, the Tona Rapid can core and segment 5,000 apples per hour. And if customers want their apples sliced, it can slice them into as few as two pieces or as many as 24, Chamberlain said.

MULTISTAGE WASHER

Another addition to the fresh-cut processing equipment industry is a new washing and drying system made by Freshline Machines Pty. Ltd., a division of Key Technology Inc., Walla Walla, Wash.

The Freshline Direct Stream system is an integrated multistage washing and automatic drying system designed specifically for the fresh-cut fruit and vegetable industry, said Anita Funk, spokeswoman.

The system is modular and suitable for all varieties of fresh-cut product and can handle volumes ranging from 1,000 pounds per hour to over 20,000 pounds per hour.

With Freshline Direct Stream, fresh-cut product is layered evenly throughout the washing and drying process using fast streaming, which guarantees consistent wash pressure and dryness levels. As a result, processors don’t have to worry about staging or storing wet product.