The importance of refrigeration in food

La importancia de la refrigeración en alimentos - INTARCON

The importance of refrigeration in food

Refrigeration in food? Most of the food consumed every day nowadays needs to be refrigerated, as it is perishable (meat, fish, fruit, vegetables…). Therefore, it is essential to ensure the safety of these products in order to avoid potential health problems.

What is the importance of refrigerating food?

It has been proven that refrigeration of food at an optimal temperature plays a key role in maintaining food safety for as long as possible. In many cases it is necessary to control and maintain the storage temperature within reasonable limits, which will be different for each type of product.

It is also known that if we lower the storage temperature of perishable foods, we will be able to significantly reduce the reproduction speed of the vast majority of microorganisms, which cause spoilage and generate possible illnesses in consumers. The refrigeration retards the metabolism of organic matter to the point of almost completely stopping it when we reach -18 °C (international conservation standard for most frozen products), as well as partially or totally inhibiting altering processes in food, such as certain enzymatic reactions or the metabolic degradation of proteins, thus retarding the decomposition of the food.

There are therefore two methods of preserving foodstuffs:

Refrigeration: This consists of keeping food at a temperature, between 0 °C and 8 °C, close to freezing point. It is usually used for fresh food to slow down microbial growth.

Freezing: This consists of lowering the temperature of food to below freezing point, usually between -18 °C and -35 °C depending on the type of product, thus making bacterial growth impossible.

Refrigeration in food - INTARCON

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Food safety

There is a great deal of regulation on food safety, both at national, European and international level. As early as 1948, article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services”. 

What is the cold chain? - INTARCON

How should we defrost food?

Defrosting is just as important a process as freezing if we want to obtain quality food.

In this case, the rules are just the opposite of those for a freezing process. While freezing processes should ideally be carried out in the shortest possible time, when it comes to thawing, the ideal is just the opposite, that they should be as slow as possible (within reasonable limits).

A very common practice to avoid whenever possible is to defrost food at room temperature, as there are a lot of bacteria that proliferate very easily at temperatures between 4 and 40 °C, especially in foods such as meat or fish. In addition, when thawing at room temperature, the surface of the food will inevitably thaw first, generating a layer of water on that surface which will favour the growth of these bacteria.

What is slow defrost?

Based on the above, thawing should ideally be carried out at a temperature that does not exceed this barrier, which is around 4 °C (maximum 5 °C). The disadvantage here is that defrosting will take much longer, but it will be worth it as the defrosting will be uniform. This slow defrosting helps to restore the original properties of the food, and the proliferation of bacteria will be very slow. For this reason, it is recommended at a domestic level, that defrosting of food is always carried out inside the refrigerator, where the temperature is usually around 4 °C.

What is fast defrosting?

If we do not have the time to perform slow defrosting (inside the refrigerator), there are also some quick defrosting methods that can give an acceptable result if done properly:

  • Microwave: it is advisable to carry out the defrosting process in several stages, as if we do it in just one, we run the risk of cooking some parts of the food. The defrosted product should be cooked without much delay.
  • Cold water jet: consists of hermetically wrapping the food and subjecting it to a jet of cold water. Since the defrosting time is relatively short, it will not be long enough to reach temperatures that put the food at risk.

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