The storage of perishable food items is essential, whether it's for an average home or a food business. The most efficient storage method approved by food safety experts is freezing as it keeps foods at extremely low temperatures that prevents microbial growth, keeping the food long-lasting and safe for eating.
But did you know that your food can suffer a freezer burn if it is stored inappropriately? Here's everything you need to know about freezer burn and its impact on food items:
This Is Why Your Frozen Foods Have Freezer Burns
Freezer burns occur when water molecules within a food item form ice crystals that gradually move from the food item to the coldest part of the freezer, which is usually the side of the freezer. This loss leaves the food item dehydrated, resulting in the undesirable freezer burn.
Some causes of freezer burns are:
- The most common cause of freezer burns is improper storage methods that permit the escape of moisture from foods, causing dehydration. Therefore, food items need to be wrapped tightly and securely so that water molecules cannot escape during freezing.
- Freezer burn may also occur in food items that have been kept in the freezer for too long. Even with appropriate storage methods, frozen foods still become dehydrated. Thus, the need to constantly refer to the CIFS Recommended Food Storage Times Resource for information on how long to store specific food items in the freezer.
- Freezer Burns may also be caused by constant fluctuations in the temperature of the freezer. Therefore ensure that your freezer is maintaining an ideal temperature of -18°C / 0°F or lower.
What Food Safety Experts Want You To Know Before You Eat Freezer Burned Foods
There is constant controversy around possible health hazards that may arise from eating freezer burned foods but health experts say there is no need to worry. Freezer burned foods are safe to eat but they must have lower quality.
So, don't be surprised to find that your freezer burned chicken has poor texture and taste when compared to that fresh off the market.
Tell-tale Signs Of Foods That Are Freezer Burned
Here are some visual clues to look out for to know when food from the freezer is freezer burned:
- protein food items become discoloured; you may find dry spots on your beef that look grey or brown.
- vegetables appear dull and slimy
- the packaging is ripped and a part of the food is exposed
- there are white spots (ice crystals) on the food item
WARNING: to be on the safer side, discard thawed food if:
- it is slimy or dull in texture
- it smells off or weird
- there is no label with a date for when the food was frozen
- the food item is frozen in a puddle of water in the freezer
How To Avoid Freezer Burns
- Ensure that food is sealed appropriately and wrapped tightly.
- Let any excess air out of freezer bags before sealing.
- Let hot food cool down before freezing.
- Label all food items with a name and date before storing.
- Ensure that freezers are operating at the proper temperature of -18°C / 0°F or lower.
- Use frozen food items within the recommended storage time frame.