What Is Food Processing? 6 Methods and 5 importance of food processing

What Is Food Processing? 6 Methods and 5 importance of food processing

One may ask What Is Food Processing? Food processing is the art of employing methods to ensure the preservation of food substances to extend their shelf-life. Processing of food enables it to last weeks, months and years. It is also a method used to turn food into food products.

Foods that are mainly processed are perishable items like tomato, meat, fish, onion, vegetable, milk and a whole lot of other food items.

Several alterations are made when processing food substances for preservation. Chemical substances which are not harmful could be added to the food for preservation. 

Processing foods include methods ranging from washing, chopping, pasteurizing, freezing, cooking, fermenting, drying and many more.

Methods of food processing;

  • Fermentation: This is the breakdown of sugar by bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms, with certain enzymes under anaerobic conditions. Therefore, for fermentation to take place, oxygen is not needed. Fermentation is used in the production of beverages such as wine, beer, and also in the processing and preservation of other food substances like yoghurt, dry sausage and in bread production for raiding the dough.
  • Drying: This is one of the oldest methods known in processing food substances for preservation. This method is based on the removal of water or moisture present in the food. A moisturized environment is one habitable medium for culturing bacteria and other harmful microorganisms in foods. Hence, the removal of water extends the shelf life of the food product. Drying can be done by application of hot air or subjection to high temperatures or freezing temperatures. Food products that can be dried are fish, meat, tomatoes, plantain and many others.
  • Freezing: This is one of the commonest methods of food processing and also, there`s high market demand for frozen products.  It increases the shelf life of a food product by inhibiting or stopping the growth of bacteria and other micro-organisms. A refrigerator can be used to obtain frozen products or subjecting the products to cool air using liquid nitrogen at -190 to -340 degree Fahrenheit in a cold room. Food products that are mainly in high demand and are processed through this method are fish, beef, chicken, all kinds of meat, fries, nuggets and many others.
  • Pasteurization; this method is mainly applied to milk. The food product is subjected to treatment under mild heat of about 72 degrees centigrade for about 16 seconds and then it is cooled to about 4 degrees centigrade. This process helps to deactivate the microorganisms and it has only minimal effect on the nutritive value of the food product. Apart from dairy products like milk, pasteurization is also used for other food products like canned food, juice and alcoholic beverages.
  •  Smoking: This is one traditional method of processing and food preservation and is still employed to date. The food is exposed to smoke gotten from the burning of wood. The heat from the burning wood kills the microbes present in the food product. Foods processed using this method include meat, fish or cheese.
  • Addition of additives: food additives are some chemical substances that help in the processing and preservation of food to retain its freshness, appearance and taste. They are added to maintain the quality of the food and also increase its shelf life. For example, fats and oil turns rancid without additives and so antioxidants are added to prevent this and reduce the growth of micro-organisms.

Importance of food processing

  • To make food products edible; most food crops like grains, wheat, corn, beans, are not edible in their natural state. Processing techniques must be employed to make them edible for human consumption without altering their nutritive value. Some techniques like grinding, milling, cooking, baking are employed to make them more suitable and to produce a variety of the same products.
  • Food products are also processed to extend their shelf life and to preserve it.
  • Durability: processing food products guarantees the durability of the produce. It is free from a microorganism that poses a threat to human health. Pasteurizing, freezing, drying, smoking, air-tight packaging, are methods that ensure food products are safe for consumption.
  • Nutritional quantity: this is both on the good and bad side, but more on the good side. Processing food enhances its quality by adding components like vitamin D, or by reducing the level of fat, salt or sugar in the food. Also, some components like fibre, minerals and vitamins could be lost due to excessive freezing or heating of the food product.
  • Well processed and packaged food products are easier to transport to various places without stress.

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