Would you eat unsafe food? Or drink contaminated water? In many parts of the world people don’t have much choice, the little food they do have is rarely subject to the quality assurance standards that developed nations take for granted.
Food poisoning is a major problem and it’s estimated that in the US there are around 47.8 million cases of food related illnesses a year. How many cases are there in 3rd world countries?
With the global population expanding at unprecedented rates and famine levels expected to rise preventing food from spoiling is a major concern, there just isn’t enough for it to be wasted.
Food starts to spoil when the chemical composition of the food starts to change, and many different factors determine the rate of this change:
• The oxygen levels food is exposed to
• The temperature food is stored at
• The levels of light food is exposed to
• The various micro-organisms (bacteria, mould etc) food is exposed to and those naturally occurring
• Naturally occurring enzymes russian food store
• The water levels in food
Artificial preservatives can be added to control this rate of change. These can range from antimicrobial preservatives that inhibit the growth of bacteria to antioxidants that absorb oxygen and slow down the rate of oxidation of the food. Water can also be removed from food to prevent spoilage; methods include heat drying or freeze-drying to evaporate the water.
One of the most commonly used methods of preserving food is to lower the temperature. Before the advent of modern refrigeration this was often achieved by storing the food below ground level (in a root cellar etc) or packing the food in ice and snow. During winter or in colder climate zones merely leaving food outside was often enough to lower the temperature enough to reduce the rate of spoilage. Modern refrigeration lowers the temperature to between 3 – 5 degrees centigrade. At this temperature the growth of and reproduction of micro-organisms and bacteria and the actions of naturally occurring enzymes is drastically reduced. Freezing the food reduces the rate of decomposition of food even more.
Modern freezers usually lower the temperature to around 18 degrees centigrade. At this temperature the water present in the food turns to ice, which means the water is unavailable as a medium for bacteria to use for growth and reproduction. A low water level also prevents the effectiveness of the naturally occurring enzymes.
Of course, modern day refrigeration costs a lot of energy to power it, especially when transporting produce from food producers to market. Trucks with onboard refrigeration use significantly more fuel than standard trucks. If the cold chain is broken and produce is exposed to unacceptable temperatures the chance of food spoiling is high, and it may even violate food safety standards imposed by authorities.