Food Spoilage and Preservation
Simply put, food security is the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. There are several angles to food security but I would like to focus on preservation of food and preventing spoilage. It is important to note that a nation may do all it can to store food, but if the right parameters for storage is not applied all that have been stored would go waste due to spoilage.
It is very common to come across tomatoes and heaps of fruits that have gone to waste due to spoilage. Spoilage commences immediately after harvesting, slaughtering or fishing. It is with this mindset that preservation techniques must be explored, tested and adopted before the process of planting, rearing of animals or even fishing begins. The President’s idea of revamping agriculture is a laudable one.
We should not start large scale agriculture and harvest tons of produce before we begin to think of how to preserve those that are not readily procured by customers and consumers. Factors influencing the rapid deterioration of perishable goods must be understood to give direction to the best storage methods. Spoilage may arise due to the activities of bacteria, moulds, yeasts and pests.
Microorganisms like human beings survive by feeding. They require carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins. There are some bacteria that require oxygen to grow, others do not need oxygen at all, whilst others can grow in the presence or absence of oxygen. When these organisms are given the opportunity to grow they release byproducts from biochemical reactions and these may be toxins or odoriferous chemicals which makes food unfit for consumption.
Particular enzymes produced by bacteria, moulds and yeast cause ripening and hence facilitates spoilage. Pests like rodents, weevils, flour moths and beetles have the capacity to cause damage to food and introduce microorganisms as well. For instance, the urine of rodents is poisonous to the human body.
We’ve already outlined the fact that food must be preserved in order to save it from the activities of spoilage organisms. There are several preservation techniques that could be adopted.
Low and High Temperatures
In order to preserve products for several weeks or months, storage in a deep freezer is recommended. Remember to keep the temperature of the freezer at -18oC at all times. Certain foods have high doses of mould spores and pathogens and these need very high temperatures to preserve them. Milk preserved in tins for example has to undergo sterilization at a temperature of 121oC for 2-3 minutes whilst most spices undergo ultra-heat treatment (UHT) at a temperature of 135oC for 1sec. It is possible to reduce the quantum of tomatoes that go waste to the barest minimum if we can employ canning
Signs and Spoilage
The rate of spoilage will depend on several factors including; age and condition of the food, the level of acidity of the food, the amount of water in the food, temperature, oxygen, preservatives present in the food, the type of microorganisms present
Johnson Opoku-Boateng is the Executive Director & Lead Consultant, QA CONSULT (Consultants and Trainers in Quality/Safety Management, Manufacturing Excellence and Food Safety). He is also the CEO of GS1 Ghana, providers of barcodes for all categories of products. He can be reached on +233209996002, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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