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Is your food spoilt?

There are ways to tell if your food is spoilt, its appearance changes, the colour changes, a change in texture or an unpleasant odour or an undesirable taste.  Food spoilage is a fast and inevitable process if you don't take the right preventive measures. When you consume food that is spilt by bacteria or enzymes can lead to serious illnesses. Factors that affect food spoilage are microorganisms, enzymes, and insects.

Microorganisms

Most significant deteriorative changes occur in foods due to microorganisms present in air, soil, water and on foods. They use our food supply as a source of nutrients for their own growth.

Moulds

Moulds contaminate our food and are easily visible to the eye. They look like threads that have spores that spread through the air. They germinate and produce a fluffy growth. Most moulds are not harmful but there are some that are toxic. Sometimes the cause for the food becoming sour is rancidity. (Rancidity: Effects on health and tips to avoid rancidity)

Yeast

Yeasts are small organisms that can't be seen by the naked eye. They are found in the air and soil, and on the surface of fruits. During yeast fermentation, the sugars present in the food are broken up to form alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeast cells grow rapidly and need oxygen, warmth, food and moisture for their growth. They can cause food spoilage in syrups, fruits, fruits juices and jam.

Bacteria

Bacteria are the most widespread microorganism found in food and are much smaller in size than of  yeast or moulds. They occur in different sizes and shapes. They also vary in their requirement for food, moisture, acidity, temperature and oxygen.They are more dangerous than moulds and yeast because food may be severely infected but not smell, taste or look bad. Many types of bacteria present are harmless but some cause illness. The ones that cause infections are known as pathogens.

Enzymes

Enzymes are naturally present in food, are responsible for the ripening process in fruits and vegetables. Hence, they cause food spoilage due to the chemical reactions, for example when you are cutting an apple it soon becomes brown. The chemical reaction are at work. Enzymes are easily destroyed by heat and can be prevented by cooling (freezing and refrigeration). Also by elimination of air, by protection from light and by addition of anti-oxidants.

Insects and other creatures

Worms, bugs,  fruit flies, moths cause serious damage to food , reduce its nutritional value. Therefore making it unsuitable for us to consume and leading to diseases.

People have been suffering from food poising and other severe infections due to food spoilage. Researchers have worked on technologies to detect food that is spoilt. Simple detection tests have emerged that give signals that the food shouldn’t be consumed. Early detection is key to warn us not to consume the food item.

Simple methods can help prevent food being spoilt such as  refrigeration, canning, preserving perishable food in air-tight boxes. Keeping track of the food that will perish first and consuming it first. Food spoilage leads to waste and to illnesses. Next time, we go to the market make sure to store your food in a manner that it will last longer and reduce the risk of spoilage.

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Divya Patwal

VOICE