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Food preservation

Food preservation is to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi (such as yeasts), or other micro-organisms (although some methods work by introducing benign bacteria or fungi to the food), as well as slowing the oxidation of fats that cause rancidity. Food preservation may also include processes that inhibit visual deterioration, such as the enzymatic browning reaction in apples after they are cut during food preparation.

Many processes designed to preserve food will involve a number of food preservation methods. Preserving fruit by turning it into jam, for example, involves boiling (to reduce the fruit’s moisture content and to kill bacteria, etc.), sugaring (to prevent their re-growth) and sealing within an airtight jar (to prevent recontamination). Some traditional methods of preserving food have been shown to have a lower energy input and carbon footprint, when compared to modern methods.

Some methods of food preservation are known to create carcinogens. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization classified processed meat, i.e. meat that has undergone salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking, as "carcinogenic to humans".

Maintaining or creating nutritional value, and flavor is an important aspect of food preservation.

New techniques of food preservation became available to the home chef from the dawn of agriculture until the Industrial Revolution.

Drying is one of the oldest techniques used to hamper the decomposition of food products. As early as 12,000 B.C., Middle Eastern and Oriental cultures were drying foods using the power of the sun. Vegetables and fruits are naturally dried by the sun and wind, but "still houses" were built in areas that did not have enough sunlight to dry things. A fire would be built inside the building to provide the heat to dry the various fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Principal hurdles used for food preservation (after Leistner, 1995)
Parameter Symbol Application
High temperature F Heating
Low temperature T Chilling, freezing
Reduced water activity aw Drying, curing, conserving
Increased acidity pH Acid addition or formation
Reduced redox potential Eh Removal of oxygen or addition of ascorbate
Biopreservatives Competitive flora such as microbial fermentation
Other preservatives Sorbates, sulfites, nitrites

  • Marx de Salcedo, Anastacia (2015). Combat-ready Kitchen: How the U.S. military shapes the way you eat. New York: Current/Penguin. ISBN . 


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