The maximum time a food retains all its organoleptic, nutritional and health properties is called shelf life.
Preserving food consists of preventing the action of contaminating agents that can contaminate it and alter its original characteristics (smell, taste, appearance).
The most frequent and traditional conservation systems used are:
Refrigeration: consists of keeping the food at low temperatures without it freezing (2 – 8 ºC). At this temperature the microorganisms will multiply very slowly.
Freezing: consists in subjecting the food to temperatures below the freezing point for a reduced time (18ºC or less).
This process causes some of the water in the food to become ice, so that the microorganisms that exist prior to freezing do not grow, but neither do they die. In this process, it is important that freezing takes place in the shortest possible time so that the original characteristics of the product are not affected.
Ultra-freezing: consists of subjecting the food to a temperature of between -35 and -150 ºC, again, for a short period of time.
Freezing and deep-freezing are the food preservation processes that cause the least changes in the food, especially ultra-freezing, since the ice crystals formed during the process are smaller and do not damage the food tissues.
At this point it is very important to define the COLD CHAIN and its importance in food.
The food chain is all the stages it goes through from the moment it is obtained until it reaches the consumer, this would be: storage, transport, reception, handling and display to the final consumer.
Well, the COLD CHAIN consists of maintaining the cold (refrigeration or freezing) at its appropriate temperature throughout the process through which the food passes: production, transport, reception, storage, sale to the consumer.
If this temperature is not maintained throughout the process, the food will suffer IRREVERSIBLE consequences and will not have all its properties in good condition.
If the cold chain is broken, this can be observed in some products. For example: frost on frozen containers or frozen products forming a block of ice, abundant liquid on yoghurts when opening them.
Preservation by heat:
The methods of preservation by heat are as follows:
Chemical preservation consists of the addition of substances that chemically modify the food, for example by lowering its PH.
Preservation by dehydration:
Preservation through the use of additives:
It consists of the addition of additives. These additives can be
Conservation by irradiation:
It consists of the application of ionizing radiation on the food (under strict control). It is a very effective method, as it prolongs the shelf life of food in the best conditions. Foods that have undergone the preservation process by irradiation must be labelled as follows.
Food Packaging & Labelling:
Once the food product is suitable, it must be protected from possible external contamination (from the environment, from the handler, from other foods…). Packaging, in addition to protecting the food, also has other functions such as: facilitating distribution and use (dosage).
The materials directly in contact with the food and with which it will be packaged depend on the type of product. They can be: plastic, glass, tinplate or aluminium. The characteristics of the containers that are in direct contact with the food must:
The LABELS of the products must inform us of everything related to the food it contains, and must do so in a clear and legible manner.
Below we will explain the requirements for all products, although depending on the type of food this label may vary slightly:
The lot is very important, because it is related to the TRACEABILITY of a product. By traceability we mean the “ability to trace or reconstruct the life of a food from its origin to its sale to the final consumer”
This means knowing where the food has passed at all times, and if there is a problem, being able to remove the products in time, so that there is no foodborne disease.
It must be ensured that the consumer will see the label, that it will not be changed, and that products will not be sold without labels. There are practices that are not allowed with regard to labelling such as re-labelling products (this is considered fraud, as we may have changed data such as the expiry date…).
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