Frozen foods are a type of packaged food goods that has been prepared by freezing them so that they last longer from the time they are prepared and until they are consumed. This is done in two ways – mechanical or flash freezing/cryogenic. They are popular among consumers because of the hectic lifestyles, the need to make full meals quickly and that they have no time to shop for groceries. They are the more expensive side, and this all has to do with how they are processed but consumers can afford them due to improvements in living standards, growing working women population and the increasing size of urban settlements. They can even be stored for longer, even for a whole year.
This puts the Global Frozen Food Market in a positive light, but are frozen foods really all that good, or more importantly, healthy?
Let’s take a look at the other sections in the retail stores where you can buy frozen goods – this is where you will find the fresh fruits and veggies. Most of the fresh produce is a few days old and it’s tough to say just how much of their nutrition they’ve lost or how fresh they really are. Next, they could have been on the shelves for a few days and that’s excluding the time taken to deliver them from the farms/orchards to warehousing and then finally, these stores.
Now let’s take the example of frozen peas – the same thing, just packaged differently. Frozen peas, depending on how technologically advanced the manufacturer is, can be farmed, cleaned, frozen and packaged in a matter of two hours, and then it is delivered to stores the next day. The likelihood of this package of peas being fresher, healthier is higher than that of the fresh foods.
But there are limitations here – there are several fruits, vegetables that don’t freeze well, at least not using the flash freezing or mechanical freezing. For example, things like tomatoes, avocadoes, leafy greens, cabbage, radishes, peppers, garlic, battered food, meringue-based frostings, etc. These are better preserve when dried or desiccated, otherwise thawing them out would ruin their texture, flavor, and nutrition.
Some manufacturers have had some level of success when freezing certain ‘off-limits’ foods but only after blanching them, cooking or treating them to a certain extent before flash freezing them. But it’s that extra step could destroy the nutrition content in it, even if the foods look good when packaged.
Still, the kind of processing plants we have today ensure the shortest lag time or delay from the farm to the freezer. The only limitation is fruits and vegetables have to be consumed as soon as possible, while fish and meat can last a little longer. Prepared full meals have been made under the assumption that consumers will eat them in the same week that they’ve been purchased.
But how would a consumer understand when to consume or throw out frozen foods inside their freezer? For this purpose, manufacturers put an expiry or ‘use by’ date on their packaging so that users would understand this. Frozen foods do have a longer shelf life, but one still has to play it safe. Fresh foods, don’t have the same shelf life limit and are more susceptible to bacteria only because of the lack of that cold storage temperature. This is why many stores reduce the price set on fresh food items toward the end of the day. Sure, the consumer can score a good bargain on lowered prices, but the foods they buy have to be cooked or eaten immediately or in two or three day’s time.