Food Processing

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What is Food Processing?

Food processing can be defined as the process of transformation of agricultural products into food or conversion of food from one form to other forms.  Various processes of food processing may include the processing of raw materials into food through various chemical and physical processes. Different activities involved in this process include cooking, mincing, liquefaction, canning, pickling, emulsification, and maceration.

Clean, harvested crops or butchered and slaughtered animal products are taken to produce attractive, marketable, and life-long food products with a higher shelf life. However, various processes of food processing may also defer the nutritional value of the food and the processed food might even pose a health hazard if it’s laced with harmful additives, preservatives, colorings, etc.


Examples of Processed Food

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Ultra Processed Foods

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Objectives of Food Processing

The primary objectives of food processing are as follows-

1. Removal of unwanted matter from food which may include removal of inedible or indigestible matter or components of food that are harmful to health.

2. Making food safe for consumption by removing natural toxins. These toxins are either inactivated or removed physically. Example- fungal toxins such as aflatoxin in grains are removed by visual examination. Toxins are removed from the food or food products by the various processes, or by heating.

3. Increasing the digestibility of Food, since certain food or food products are difficult to digest and food processing either softens fibers, gelatinizes starch, or denatures proteins, making it easily digestible.

4. Boosting the shelf life of food as various processes involved like pasteurizing, dehydration, cold storage, canning, etc. prevent the food from getting spoiled for a longer time, thus increasing their shelf life.

5. To preserve the nutrient quality of the food by preventing the spoilage of food.

6. To ease the storage, transportation, and distribution of food.

7. Make food items more attractive and marketable.


Methods of Food Processing

Food processing turns raw, or indigestible food into well-cooked and preserved eatables. Various methods applied for food processing are as follows-

  • Peeling, chopping, slicing.

  • Mincing

  • Liquefaction

  • Fermentation

  • Emulsification

  • Cooking

  • Gasification or addition of gas for example- in soft drinks.

  • Proofing

  • Drying

  • Pasteurization

  • Packaging


Food Preservation in Food Processing

Food preservation is the most important process in Food Processing which is meant to prevent the spoilage of food by the growth of fungi, bacteria, and many other microorganisms. It involves slowing down the oxidation of fats that would lead to rancidity. There are several methods of food preservation some of which are listed below


Drying

It is one of the oldest techniques that are employed to preserve or process food products. It is naturally done by exposing the food particles to sunlight to dry them. Drying results in the evaporation of moisture or water content from food which in turn prevents the invasion and growth of microorganisms in food. Drying can also be done by using hot air. It is done mainly for food grains like wheat, maize, oats, barley, rice, before storing them.


Cooling and Freezing

Cooling or freezing is done both on commercial as well as on a domestic basis. This process preserves food by slowing down the growth of microorganisms and the action of enzymes released by microbes leading to the rotting of food. Food products like meat, dairy products, and fish are stored in a refrigerator or commercially in big cold storage keeping them frozen, thus increasing the shelf-life of the products.


Smoking

Foods such as meat and fish are processed, preserved, and flavored by the use of smoke. This is done in big smokehouses. The food processing and the combination of smoke with the aroma of hydrocarbons generated from the smoke processes enhance the taste of the food. Also, microorganisms and spores are destroyed by the process of smoking due to heat.


Pasteurization

It is a widely used preservation technique used by industries to preserve milk. Milk is heated and immediately cooled in this process in large containers to expose the microbes to sudden heat and cold, destroying them with extreme temperature fluctuations.


Salting and Sugaring

Salt dries up food by sucking the moisture content. This process is widely used to preserve meat. Meat is frequently treated with nitrate to prevent them from spoiling.

Sugaring is a process used to preserve fruits. Many fruits such as apples, peaches, and plums are cooked with sugar till they are crystallized. This is then stored dry.


Pickling

It is a process of preserving food in an antimicrobial liquid that is fit for human and animal consumption. Pickling can be categorized into two types- fermentation and thermal pickling.

In fermentation pickling, bacteria present in a liquid produces organic preservation agents that prevent food spoilage for a longer time.

In chemical pickling, the food is preserved in an edible liquid which is mostly brine, vinegar, ethanol, vegetable oil, and many other types of oils that destroy microbes.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are The Benefits of Food Processing?

The benefits of food processing are as follows-

  • It reduces the number of harmful bacteria in food that can cause diseases. Various processes involved in food processing aim at killing the microbes and bacteria in food.

  • It improves the shelf-life of food products.

  • It reduces the risk of contracting diseases from food microbes.

2. What are The Disadvantages of Food Processing?

  • Food processing often leads to the addition of artificial agents to food.

  • It may decrease the nutritive value of food and while excellent presentable foods look very pleasing, they also lead to overconsumption.

  • Processed foods are loaded with sugar. For Example- aerated drinks, soft drinks that are not healthy.