Importance of food processing and preservation

With Nigeria’s inflation rate recently rising to 19.64 percent – the highest since September 2005 (17 years) – understanding the importance of both food processing and preservation has become imperative for those willing.

It’s all because we live in a time of serious insecurity, when many farmers in states otherwise known for plentiful food production (Benue, Niger, Zamfara, Ondo) do not have access to their farms.

Even in other parts of the country where food production is high, many fruits, edible roots and vegetables could be wasted and rotted in rural areas because there are no good access roads to bring them to urban centers for sale. They also lack the necessary knowledge about processing and preservation.

Additionally, given the unpredictable effects of climate change, seasonal foods should undergo modern processing and preservation techniques to preserve their shelf life, flavor and texture and ensure a long shelf life.

We therefore cannot afford to look down on the food industry, which has the potential to diversify the economy through crude oil revenues.

In fact, the World Trade Organization ranks Nigeria as currently the largest food market in Africa, with significant investment in local industry and a high level of imports. The food and beverage sector is estimated to contribute 22.5% to the value of the manufacturing industry and 4.6% to the country’s GDP.

But in India, the food processing industry accounts for about 10% of GDP and employs about 15 million people. The sector is multiplying and is estimated to be worth Rs. 2.58,000 crore by 2022. There are many opportunities for investment in the food processing sector and it offers good returns.

Currently, the global processed food market is about $7 trillion, which is gradually growing over time. The rapid globalization and industrialization are the main factors behind the progress of the food industry in different countries.

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Analysis of the UNIDO Industrial Statistics Database (2005) shows that food processing is a promising component of manufacturing in developing countries and the contribution of the food processing industry to national GDP increases with the country’s national income. But what is food for mankind?

Food is “organic matter consumed for nutritional purposes. They are of plant or animal origin and contain moisture, protein, lipids, carbohydrates, minerals and other organic substances. Food spoils through microbial, chemical or physical influences. Nutritional values, color, texture and edibility of food are all susceptible to spoilage.” But what causes spoilage?

The factors are microbial, physical, excess water and sugar.

Microbial spoilage

Perishable foods are often attacked by various microorganisms, which are molds, yeasts and bacteria. Microbial spoilage is the most common cause of foodborne illness. The growth of most microorganisms can be prevented or delayed by adjusting storage temperature, reducing water activity, lowering pH, using preservatives, and using appropriate packaging.

physical spoilage

The key factors affecting physical spoilage are moisture content, temperature, glass transition temperature, crystal growth and crystallization. Food spoilage due to physical changes or instability is defined as physical spoilage. Moisture loss or gain, moisture migration between different components, and physical separation of components or ingredients are examples of physical spoilage. Therefore, food must be preserved in order to maintain its quality over a longer period of time.

crystal growth and crystallization

Foods that are frozen slowly or multiple times suffer greatly from crystal growth. They are subject to large extracellular ice growth. Rapid freezing causes ice to form in food cells, and these foods are more stable than processed foods that are frozen slowly. To minimize the growth of large ice crystals, emulsifiers and other water-binding agents can be added during freezing cycles.

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Sugar cookie staling, graininess in candy and ice cream are the results of sugar crystallization. Foods high in sugar can undergo sugar crystallization either from moisture accumulation or from increasing temperature. As a result, sugar comes to the surface from within and a gray or white appearance is noticed.

Sugar crystallization can be delayed by adding fructose or starch. In addition, the time above the respective glass transition temperature plays a crucial role in the sugar crystallization process of foods.

According to the functions for the human body, foods can be categorized as: (a) body building and repairing foods, (b) energizing foods, (c) regulating foods, and (d) protective foods. Based on their nutritional value, foods can be classified as: (a) high-carbohydrate foods, (b) high-protein foods, (c) high-fat foods, and (d) foods high in vitamins and minerals.

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Food preservation as a way forward

The history of “food preservation” dates back to ancient civilization when primitive troops first felt the need to preserve food after hunting a large animal unable to eat at the same time.

Knowing the techniques of preserving food was the first and most important step in establishing a civilization. Different cultures at different times and in different places used almost the same basic techniques to preserve food.

Eating spoiled food can lead to illness and, in extreme cases, death. Considering shelf life, food can be divided into perishable, semi-perishable and non-perishable.

According to the authors of a research paper entitled: “A Review of the Mechanisms and Commercial Aspects of Food Preservation and Processing” such as Sadat Kamal Amit, Md. MezbahUddin, RizwanurRahman, SM Rezwanul Islam & MohidusSamad Khan, the techniques to combat this spoilage are becoming more and more popular demanding in recent years

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Traditional food preservation techniques are used extensively around the world. These include drying, freezing, refrigeration, pasteurization and chemical preservation. But scientific advances and advances contribute to the advancement of existing technologies and the innovation of new technologies such as irradiation, high-pressure technology and hurdle technology.

Food processing has become very interdisciplinary as it includes phases of growing, harvesting, processing, packaging and distribution. Therefore, an integrated approach would be useful to preserve food during food production and processing stages.

The foods are usually classified as perishable, semi-perishable and non-perishable.

Perishable foods are those that have a shelf life of several days to about three weeks. Milk and dairy products, meat, poultry, eggs and seafood are examples of perishable foods. If special preservation techniques are not followed, food could spoil immediately.

Semi-perishable foods can be stored for a long time (about six months) under appropriate storage conditions. These include vegetables, fruit, cheese and potatoes.

Nonperishable natural and processed foods can be stored for several years or more. Dry beans, nuts, flour, sugar, canned fruit, mayonnaise and peanut butter are just a few examples of non-perishable foods.

This is the time for the Department of Agriculture, federal and state levels, food research centers and non-governmental organizations to get involved in educating the public, even using local languages, about the benefits of food processing and preservation. These NGOs should reach out to graduates in agriculture, food science and technology for mass awareness raising. A stitch in time will surely save nine!

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