Sunday, June 6, 2010


Any food processing operation is bound to affect the original nutritional content of the food processed, though such products have other advantages like longer shelf life and better safety. There are many technologies being applied for converting less stable and more vulnerable fresh raw materials into more stabilized products for consumer convenience. In terms of nutrient and quality loss, shorter the lapse of time between harvesting and processing better chances the food has in preserving its quality. Also true is the fact that more rigorous the processing, greater will be the nutrient loss. A new dimension has been added to this debate when frozen foods were rated as better than fresh ones as being marketed to day. Probably there may be some substance in such a claim.

"The frozen food industry has been commissioning research from scientists to support its claims. Last month Birds Eye, which makes a frozen "traditional beef dinner", published a study from the respected Institute of Food Research in Norwich about the loss of nutrients and vitamins in fresh food. It turns out that fruit and vegetables can reach shops nine days after being picked, and stay on shelves for four days after that. The scientists found that these fading green beans could lose up to 45 per cent of nutrients, broccoli and cauliflower 25 per cent, garden peas up to 15 per cent, and carrots up to 10 per cent. By contrast, Birds Eye's garden peas had up to 30 per cent more vitamin C because they were zapped into suspended animation within hours of being harvested".

Under the conditions prevailing in India, foods whether fresh or frozen, may not make much of a difference as far as nutrition is concerned because more than 90% of the fresh produce marketed in the country come from hundreds and thousands of small farms with no certainty about their origin or quality. It is left to the consumer to "feel" the quality of produce and select the ones "perceived" to be good. As there is no reliable information on nutrient changes from the point of harvest to the point of sales, it is difficult to speculate on this issue. But one expects a few large scale players who market frozen produce in the country to have appropriate backward linkages and therefore more control on the quality of raw materials procured for processing. To that extent one can concede the point that frozen foods are superior to fresh produce, unless one plucks the fresh ones from the kitchen back yard for immediate cooking!


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