We have all been there, we go grocery shopping then let the food we just bought go bad. There’s some good news though, it’s not all your fault! It’s possible the food began deteriorating before you brought it home.
Factors that can cause food to spoil include microbial, chemical and physical reactions which affect the taste, smell and appearance of a product.
Microorganisms are common in foods, especially bacteria, yeasts and molds. These microorganisms are all around us and naturally present in some foods. However, if the proper precautions are not taken, microorganisms feed off the moisture and can quickly lead to contamination.
When exposed to unsuitable storage conditions, between 40 °F and 140 °F, microorganisms can quickly multiply and release dangerous toxins, even if the food consumed is cooked to a safe temperature. Here are the main culprits:
- Clostridium perfringens grows in conditions with little or no oxygen and is commonly found on raw meat and poultry.
- Bacillus cereus is the most common cause of food poisoning. This bacterium grows at a variety of temperatures and pH and is found in decaying organic matter.
Chemical changes involving exposure to oxygen and light are the second most common cause of spoilage. Oxygen can cause food to spoil in several ways:
- Encouraging the growth of microorganisms, resulting in mold and yeast growth.
- Oxidizing enzymes speed up chemical reactions in food, resulting in browning and foul odors.
- Oxidizing lipids attack fatty portions in food, resulting in foul odors and an off flavor.
It’s inevitable, food will be exposed to light. Whether natural or artificial, light can cause photodegradation which can cause lead to discoloration, off-flavor and vitamin loss of a product.
Raw produce is especially prone to physical spoilage due to bruises and cracks. Physical damage can also be contributed to improper packaging, broken packages and even dented cans. The damage endured provides an open door for microorganisms, living creatures and environmental factors.
In terms of temperature, excessive heat will speed up enzyme reactions. Cold temperatures will cause accidental freezing and thawing, resulting in cracking. But, a majority of spoilage takes place at moderate temperatures.
There is no management system for food spoilage, only control measures you can implement with help from a HACCP plan. Other than the safe handling of food, it all comes down to properly controlling and maintaining temperatures.
To ensure food and consumer safety, keep food out of the “Danger Zone” (between 40 °F and 140 °F). The higher the temperature gets; the faster food will deteriorate. According to foodsafetysite.com, for every 18 °F rise in temperature within the temperature range where most food is handled (50 °F to 100° F), the rate of chemical reaction is approximately doubled.
MadgeTech data loggers ensure the safety and quality of a product from cooking and cooling to shipping and storage. To learn more about how MadgeTech can provide validation throughout the food production process email us at [email protected] or give us a call at (603) 456-2011.