Explain One of the Ways of Preserving Food Products Throughout Time and the Science Behind Such Technique
Methods of preventing food from spoilage and increasing shelf-life have existed for thousands of years. Fermentation is a technique of preservation of food products, which utilizes the activity of certain microorganisms to create an environment unfavorable for the growth of harmful or pathogenic microorganisms, thereby preventing food spoilage.
In the absence of air (anaerobic environment), carbohydrates and sugars are broken down by enzymes produced from bacteria, fungi, or molds (Tay) as a result of growth and metabolic activities. The by-products of these activities produce alcohol, acid, and flavor compounds (Terefe 1). Fermentation may be broadly divided into three basic forms, namely lactic acid fermentation, alcohol fermentation, and acetic acid fermentation (Tay).
Lactic acid bacteria are responsible for lactic acid fermentation. The breaking down of lactose (milk sugar) produces pyruvic acid and finally lactic acid. Other microorganisms, which may lead to spoilage, cannot survive in the low pH environment created due to the increase in acidity (Bauer). Alcohol fermentation occurs when yeast breaks down pyruvate molecules in sugar to produce alcohol as a by-product. The high alcoholic content is also an unfavorable environment for the growth of other microorganisms (Bauer; Tay). Acetic acid fermentation occurs when sugars from grains or fruits are converted to sour-tasting acetic acid (Tay). Fermentation also enhances the digestibility, flavor, aroma, and nutritional value of food (Terefe 1).
Fermentation has been proven over many millennia to be an effective food preservation technique. The metabolites of certain microorganisms help prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms, thereby increasing the shelf-life of food products.
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- Bauer, Danielle. “How Fermentation Makes Food Delicious.” Cravings of a Food Scientist, 30 Apr. 2019, https://cravingsofafoodscientist.com/2019/04/30/how-fermentation-makes-food-delicious/. Accessed 05 Feb. 2021.
- Tay, Andy. “The Science of Fermentation.” Lab Manager, 18 July 2019, https://www.labmanager.com/insights/the-science-of-fermentation-1432. Accessed 05 Feb. 2021.
- Terefe, Netsanet Shiferaw. “Food Fermentation.” Reference Module in Food Science, Elsevier, 13 June 2016, pp. 1–3.