Vacuum Packing of Food and Nutrition
Why Vacuum packing?
Think back to the last time you went on your travels – a short leisure trip or a long haul for work? Perhaps, it was before the pandemic or most recently after travel opened up. One of the first things you would have done was to pack your bags.
One way to pack more is to vacuum pack. Vacuum packing helps us compress the volume of the items in our luggage and made more space available but more importantly when it comes to food, it was always a challenge to keep it fit for consumption longer. Enter the innovation of vacuum packing for food
It might be surprising to note that vacuum packing was invented more than half a century ago in the early 1950s by Karl Busch. They say necessity is the mother of all invention and in this case, it was to preserve the food for the soldiers going to war, from going bad. This led to the invention of vacuum packing in its most primitive form – removing oxygen from the pack and sealing it. This prevented bacteria and microorganisms from growing and spoiling the food. It helped keep the food items fresh for longer and crucially, retain the taste.
Vacuum packing has been a game changer in the food business that predominantly has to deal with perishable products.
- Longevity: Food items that last for under a day at room temperature or a couple of days in the fridge can now be reliably stored for over a year or more when vacuum-packed.
- Preserves nutritional value & taste: There will not be any marked change in the nutritional value or taste of the food.
- No freezer burns: There are instances of vacuum packing helping retain food quality, texture, and flavor better than just storing it in the fridge where issues of freezer burns and diminished taste can occur.
Most meats, cheese, veggies, and fruits that have a normal shelf life in days and months have a vacuum shelf life that runs into years.
Risks of Vacuum packing
However, the National Center for Food Preservation has indicated that risks do exist with vacuum-sealed foods
- The packs are anaerobic and so harmful bacteria can grow faster in vacuum-sealed products and can pose a health risk.
- It gets difficult to identify if food has gone bad, since such food in vacuum-sealed containers may not change color or look any different from perfectly healthy food.
- Perishable foods even if vacuum sealed cannot be stored at room temperature and will spoil. The anaerobic bacteria produce toxins that cause food poisoning can lead to life-threatening complications.
How to handle Vacuum-packed foods?
To prevent foods from going bad when vacuum packed, it is important to handle vacuum-sealed foods with utmost care and store it in a freezer in the fridge. However, fresh produce is best left as is since vacuum sealing them leads to their natural enzymes breaking them down. It is advisable to blanch vegetables before sealing them to preserve their enzymes. Low-acid foods, and unclean and dirty vegetables, even if vacuum packed may lead to botulism. Using gloves is another best practice when dealing with sealed food and it is important to ensure that the seal is not damaged in any way.
While vacuum packaging may help retain the nutritional value of the food, the plastic of the packaging may contaminate food considering they are in contact with the food over a prolonged duration of time. The chemical in the plastic may cause hormonal imbalances resulting in a host of health issues.
With advancements in vacuum packing, food can be bought in bulk and wastage can be minimized. All things considered, vacuum packing is probably the next best invention to sliced bread and with due care, be able to increase the shelf life and maintain the nutritional value of the food for months and years.
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* Value every life around us by encouraging ethical farming
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