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What Makes Processed Food? A Basic Guide

Food processing is essentially any method used to turn fresh food into edible food products. This can mean either using one method or a combination to create the best possible outcome. Either way, each one is known to have its own advantage over the other and are used best for their own specific purposes.

Because of this, the food processing industry has been able to produce innovative products for mass consumption like instant food and freeze-dried coffee. Aside from this, food supplements that aid in have been accessible to consumers to target their specific health concerns.

The entire process includes the basic preparation of foods, alteration of the food product into another form (which is like making preserves from fruit), preserving said foods, and finally packing them. The manufacturing process requires different types of machines and methods, such as injection molding techniques to make the entire system run smoothly and produce good results.

1. Drying

This method is arguably the most commonly used and the oldest trick in the book when it comes to food processing. Drying involves reducing the water content in the food product to reduce the likelihood of bacterial growth in it. Foods such as processed cereal grains like wheat, maize, rice, rye, and the like are best to use with the drying process.

2. Fermentation

Fermentation involves the breaking down of sugars into three categories: bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms under anaerobic conditions. What this means is zero oxygen is needed for it to be done aside from the already-existing oxygen present in all sugar. This method is commonly used in the production of alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer, and cider. Alternatively, it is also best to use for the preservation of foods like dry sausages and yogurt.

3. Freezing

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Freezing can be considered the most modern method out of the three, as it has only been in use far shorter. Because of the advancements in commercial and domestic food production, freezing is used to preserve or process foods on both spectrums. This involves simply containing food in a place where the temperature is always low, like cold storage facilities.

4. Pasteurization

For this one, food is heated first in a high-temperature area. After it has reached the appropriate temperature, it is then quickly cooled down. This might seem confusing at first, but this is done in order to kill microorganisms present in the food material. For example, raw milk is likely to contain harmful bacteria that can cause many health complications. Boiling or pasteurizing unfiltered food is crucial to ensure that it is safe for consumption. Apart from dairy, this method is also commonly used in the preservation of canned goods and alcoholic beverages.

5. Pickling

This method involves cooking food in various chemicals and materials in order to destroy microorganisms, much like in pasteurization. However, this method is best used for oil products. Brine, vinegar, ethanol, vegetable oil, etc. usually go through a thorough pickling process before they are deemed safe for being consumed.

The next time you eat your favorite burger or munch on a brownie, you will know a little bit more about what went behind its production. There is a process to everything in life, and knowing them will make you more appreciative of the small things.

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