Get to know the causes of food spoilage

Knowing the causes of food spoilage can help you avoid foodborne illness.

There are many things that contribute to food spoilage however food deteriorating is a natural occurrence. We can’t always see or taste that food has been spolied. We should be aware of all ways food spoils in order for each of us to do our best to prevent foodborne illness from being  served up on our dinner table.

Microorganisms are silent intruders that can often make you very sick and can even be deadly. They leave no indication of settling in your food. There isn’t any color change, taste or even smell that our senses can detect. Microorganisms love temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. There are microorganisms that we can see, taste and smell, they are the molds, and yeasts that can even grow in a refrigerator.

Air and light can cause changes to our food that can make it become rancid. Oxidation can occur creating a discoloration, flavor change and even change the nutrient content of the food.

Temperature can increase the speed at which food deteriorates and spoils. The warmer it is the faster microorganisms, enzymes, molds and yeast are able to grow.

By controlling the amount of time that food is in between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, spoilage can be kept to a minimum. Time can be used as an indicator to remind us to throw out food products when they become out of date or have been sitting in the refrigerator too long.

Physical damage, bruises, slices, or even parasites, rodents and little creatures can bring unwanted visible damage to our food. When food is exposed through an opening in the skin or shows evidence of others indulging in your meal then you can be sure it had been exposed to less desirable microorganisms. 

How can we prevent them from joining us at the table? Michigan State University Extension recommends cleaning, washing and sanitizing all surfaces, utensils and hands regularly when preparing food. We can cook and cool food quickly to proper temperatures; by watching the time and temperature at which our food is left out. Throw out anything that may be questionable and keep leftovers no longer than seven days.

For more food safety information refer to the USDA food safety website.

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