Many persons might have never asked the question, what
cause food to spoil? But in their private thoughts this un-answered question
lingers. We have been impregnated with articles on food safety, how to identify
spoiled foods and the implications of consuming them, but rather seldomly, are
we given the knowledge on what cause our foods to spoil.
As outlined in an article written byLohani and Garg, 2009 titled, Food Spoilage and Control. Food spoilage is an undesirable change that has occurred
in the colour, flavour, odour, or texture of the food. The onset of food spoilage is rather indefinite. It is a
gradual process occurring because of poor sanitation, enzymatic
or chemical reactions, improper temperature control, microbial growth or
physical abuse of the food.
This therefore means, that it is not just the growth of
microorganisms on foods that cause them to spoil. Food can be spoil in two ways;
microbial spoilage and non-microbial spoilage. Here now are the factors that are
associated with each spoilage.
All foods contain some level of microbes on them even
before they enter the food chain. These microbes could be natural flora that
exist on the food or it could be from the environment e.g. soil or air. In essence,
we could say that the food was contaminated with microbes even before we come in contact
with it. Therefore, for microbes to multiple on the food to cause it to spoil,
there has to be some intrinsic or extrinsic factor fueling such process.
Foods containing nutrients, water availability (high
in moisture), oxygen, low in acidity and is not being stored at the correct temperature
will facilitate the rapid growth of microbes in them. What we really consider
spoilage to be could actually be a delicacy in other cultures. As what
appears to be undesirable to our sense of appeal, is in fact the reaction and
metabolic activities of the microbes. During the process of them growing, they
are producing acids, gases, slimes, toxins, waste and other by-products. These are
what we are seeing on the food, not the microbes themselves. It is therefore, for
this reason why they appear to be undesirable.
It should not be mistaken to think that spoiled foods
are all safe to consume, however; its imperative to note that not all spoiled foods
are unsafe. E.g. Wine, Yogurt, cheese, pickles, sauerkraut etc. These foods are
derivatives of foods that have undergone some level of undesirable changes in
there flavour, colour, texture and odour. In other words, the milk has to
undergo a state of spoilage in order for it to be in a form to make cheese.
With that said, its crucial that we understand that
the process is done under a controlled environment and readers should never think
to consume spoil foods. As there could be serious health implications associated
with such practice, if foods are not first pass fit for human consumption.
As was mentioned before, food spoilage is not only the
result of microbial effects, but also factors such as chemical reaction in the
food itself or with its packaging material. Enzymes are naturally occurring chemicals
found in all living things. There function is to speed up or slows down the
chemicals in the foods that cause them to go through the different stages of
maturity. E.g. the banana which was unfit, then become ripened after which it
becomes over ripened and there is a change in its texture, colour, odour and flavor.
Another form of chemical reaction that also occurs in
food is called rancidity. This is actually the oxidation, hydrolytic or ketonic
break down of fatty acids in foods to a smaller form, releasing certain odiferous
The packaging material e.g. cans used in packaging
foods can also react with the food. Additionally,
if foreign objects such as; bolts, nails, nuts etc. contaminate the food, it may result in a chemical reaction which cause
an undesirable change in the food.
In conclusion, food spoilage is not necessary an undesirable thing, as some foods have to undergo certain changes in order to facilitate the creation of other foods.
Have you ever eaten spoiled food?