We can define food spoilage as any change that generates food undesirable to eat for a given population under ordinary conditions. The end result of a series of partial or complete breakdown reactions affecting one or all of the food components like fats, proteins and carbohydrates is definitely what food spoilage is about. It leaves a trail of decomposition products, along with the off-flavors and off-odors and, oftentimes, toxic products. All these changes and reactions do not happen all at once but they sum up to deteriorated food quite unfit for human consumption.
What are the different types of Food Spoilage?
Food spoilage may be any one of the following types: nutritive, aesthetic, and poisonous. An example of nutritive deterioration is the destruction of riboflavin in milk upon exposure to direct sunlight, day light or artificial light. This can be prevented if the milk is protected from light and stored in a refrigerator. Wilted lettuce and discolored fruits and vegetables, though not harmful to health, are considered aesthetically “spoiled” because of their appearance.
The most life-threatening type of food spoilage is food poisoning. It may occur as infection, ingestion of organisms in large amounts, or as intoxication, ingestion of the toxic products (toxins) of the organism. The most common cause of food poisoning is the production in foods of a toxin by the Staphylococcus aureus organism. The staphylococcus organism is a pus-forming bacteria commonly present in nature and ordinarily present on the surface of the skin, under the fingernails and in the nose, and throat. For growth, it needs food, air, and a warm moist environment. Gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting usually develop within 2 to 4 hours after eating.
Botulism is more dangerous type of food poisoning. This is caused by the ingestion of the toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum. When the organism is allowed to grow in food, it produces a powerful toxin during its development. Ingestion of even small doses of this toxin causes serious illness within 24 hours. The nervous system is affected and death usually results from respiratory failure. Since the organism grows only in the absence of oxygen, botulism usually implicates improperly canned foods such as meats and low-acid fruits and vegetables.
Salmonella infection accounts for numerous cases of gastrointestinal disorders. The Salmonella organism grows readily at room temperature, is inactivated at refrigeration temperature and is destroyed by heat. The organism grows best in low-acid foods like eggs, dairy products, meats, shellfish and poultry. Salmonella infection produces symptoms like nausea and vomiting, abdominal pains and diarrhea within 12 to 36 hours. The condition may be prevented by thorough cooking and immediate serving or refrigeration of perishable foods.
Streptococcal infection is due to ingestion of food contaminated directly or indirectly from discharges of nose and throat, abscesses of food handlers, or through sneezing or coughing of infected persons. Food commonly implicated are milk and milk products, partially prepared hams, baked custards and sausages. Pasteurization of milk and education of the public in habits of personal hygiene are preventive measures.