Food spoilage

Understanding Food Spoilage

  • Food spoilage refers to changes that make food unfit for human consumption.
  • This can be caused by a range of factors including bacteria, yeasts, moulds, insects, and rodents.
  • Processes like fermentation, rotting and decay contribute to food spoilage.
  • Signs of food spoilage may include an unusual smell, taste or texture and may change the colour of the food.

Causes of Food Spoilage

Biological Causes

  • Bacteria: Bacteria rapidly multiply under favourable conditions and can cause the food to spoil.
  • Yeasts: Yeasts can spoil food by fermentation processes leading to changes in taste and smell.
  • Moulds: Moulds tend to grow on top the food in the form of a fuzzy layer and can cause the food to spoil.
  • Enzymes: Natural enzymes present in the food can cause the food to mature and overripe, leading to spoilage.

Environmental Causes

  • Temperature: Higher temperatures can facilitate the growth of spoilage organisms.
  • Moisture levels: Higher moisture content in food can encourage bacterial growth and cause spoilage.
  • Acidity/Alkalinity: Acidity and Alkalinity levels can influence bacterial growth; usually bacteria flourish in slightly alkaline conditions.
  • Oxygen: Many spoilage organisms need oxygen to grow. A hermetic sealing preserves food by keeping out the oxygen.

Preventing Food Spoilage

  • Refrigeration slows the growth of spoilage organisms.
  • Freezing can halt the growth of bacteria, yeasts and mould.
  • Cooking kills most spoilage organisms. Proper cooking and thorough re-heating can prevent food spoilage.
  • Materials like glass and plastic can be used to create an airtight seal, limiting the amount of oxygen available and slowing down enzymatic reactions.
  • Food preservation techniques like pickling, freezing, drying, canning can help prevent food spoilage.

Consequences of Food Spoilage

  • Consumption of spoiled food can lead to foodborne illnesses such as food poisoning.
  • Spoiled food is a waste of resources like money and time.
  • It may also contribute towards environmental pollution when discarded improperly.