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What’s the purpose of food processors?
What’s the purpose of food processors?

EUFIC conducted a study on the understanding of processed food among UK participants. This Q&A summarizes the key topics covered in the study.

What is food processing?

Food processing can be described as any method that turns fresh foods into food products.

What are the various methods of food processing

Food processing includes both traditional methods (heat, fermentation, pickling and smoking), as well as modern (pasteurisation or ultra-heat, high pressure processing or modified atmosphere packaging). Here are some examples of common food processing methods:

Canning

The food is heated to a high heat. This is known as pasteurisation. The food is then packaged and sealed in an air-tight container. Our infographic shows the process of canning tomatoes.

Fermentation

Anaerobic conditions are those that allow sugars to be broken down by yeasts, bacteria or other microorganisms. This means that the process doesn't require oxygen (apart from the sugar itself). Fermentation is used in many ways, including the production of alcohol such as wine, beer and cider.

Freezing

To decrease the activity harmful bacteria, food temperatures should be kept below 0°C. It can be used to preserve most foods, including fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, and ready-to-eat food. What are the steps to produce frozen peas, do you know? You can find them here.

Modified atmosphere packaging

A protective gas mixture is used to replace air inside a package. It often includes oxygen, carbon dioxide, or nitrogen - gases that are also found in the air we breath. They prolong the shelf life of fresh foods products, which include fruits, vegetables and meats, as well as seafood.

Pasteurisation

To kill microorganisms in food, heat it and then cool it down quickly. Raw milk can contain harmful bacteria, which could cause foodborne diseases. To ensure that it is safe to eat, you should boil it or pasteurize it. Pasteurisation is widely used to preserve canned foods, juices, and alcoholic drinks, except dairy products.

Smoking

Smoking is a process that involves heat and chemical treatments to food to preserve it. Smoked foods typically include meat, sausages and fish as well as cheese.

Additives

Food additives play a vital role in the preservation of freshness, safety, flavor, appearance, and texture of processed foods. Food additives may be added for specific reasons, such as to preserve food safety or to maintain food quality throughout the product's shelf-life. Antioxidants prevent oils and fats becoming rancid, while preservatives reduce or prevent the growth of microbes. Mold can be found on bread. Emulsifiers are used, for example, to improve the texture and prevent salad dressings dehydrating into oil or water.

What are the consequences and reasons for food processing?

Makes food edible

Grain crops like wheat and corn can't be eaten in their natural state. These grains can be turned into flour through processing techniques such as grinding and milling. They can then make breads and other grain-based products like pastas, cereals and cereals. There are three types, each with different processing levels. If you can choose wholegrain flour, it is the best. Our infographic, "Gain on grain", provides more information about the process of grain becoming bread.

Safety, shelf-life, and preservation

The process of removing harmful microorganisms from food improves, or even guarantees food safety. There are three main methods: pasteurization, airtight packaging and the use preservatives.

Nutritional quality

Both food processing and nutrition can have an impact on the nutritional quality of food. For example, it can increase it by adding ingredients that are not present such as vitamin D (through "fortification") or by lowering fats salt or sugar. Some fibre and vitamins and minerals can be lost due to excessive refining or heating.

Convenience

The modern world is short on time and processing and packaging technology can help by offering a variety convenient foods, such as prepared meals, bagged and frozen salads, and sliced and canned vegetables.

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