Frozen food

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A frozen processed foods aisle at a supermarket in Canada.
Cutting frozen tuna using a band saw in the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, Japan (2002)

Freezing food preserves it from the time it is prepared to the time it is eaten. Since early times, farmers, fishermen, and trappers have preserved their game and produce in unheated buildings during the winter season.[1] Freezing food slows down decomposition by turning residual moisture into ice, inhibiting the growth of most bacterial species. In the food commodity industry, the process is called IQF or Individually Quick Frozen (flash freezing).

Preserving food in domestic kitchens during the 20th and 21st centuries is achieved using household freezers. Accepted advice to householders was to freeze food on the day of purchase. An initiative by a supermarket group in 2012 (backed by the UK's Waste & Resources Action Programme) promotes advising the freezing of food "as soon as possible up to the product's 'use by' date". The Food Standards Agency was reported as supporting the change, providing the food had been stored correctly up to that time.[2]


Frozen products do not require any added preservatives because microorganisms do not grow when the temperature of the food is below -9.5°C, which is sufficient on its own in preventing food spoilage. Long-term preservation of food may call for food storage at even lower temperatures. Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC), a tasteless and odorless stabilizer, is typically added to frozen food because it does not adulterate the quality of the product. [3]


Beginning in 1929, Clarence Birdseye offered his quick-frozen foods to the public. Birdseye got the idea during fur-trapping expeditions to Labrador in 1912 and 1916, where he saw the natives use freezing to preserve foods.[4] Modern attempts at refrigeration began in the early 20th century in the meat packing industry. More advanced attempts include food frozen for Eleanor Roosevelt on her trip to Russia. Other experiments, involving orange juice, ice cream and vegetables were conducted by the military near the end of World War II.


Frozen food packaging must maintain its integrity throughout machine filling, sealing, freezing, storage, transportation, thawing, and often cooking.[5] As many frozen foods are cooked in a microwave oven, manufacturers have developed packaging that can go straight from freezer to the microwave.

In 1974, the first differential heating container (DHC) was sold to the public. A DHC is a sleeve of metal designed to allow frozen foods to receive the correct amount of heat. Various sized apertures were positioned around the sleeve. The consumer would put the frozen dinner into the sleeve according to what needed the most heat. This ensured proper cooking.[6]

Today there are multiple options for packaging frozen foods. Boxes, cartons, bags, pouches, heat-in-bag pouches, lidded trays and pans, crystallized PET trays, and composite and plastic cans.[7]

Scientists are continually researching new aspects of frozen food packaging. Active packaging offers a host of new technologies that can actively sense and then neutralize the presence of bacteria or other harmful species. Active packaging can extend shelf-life, maintain product safety, and help preserve the food over a longer period of time. Several functions of active packaging are being researched:

Packaged frozen foods

Effects on nutrients[edit]

Vitamin content of frozen foods[edit]


Freezing is an effective form of food preservation because the pathogens that cause food spoilage are killed or do not grow very rapidly at reduced temperatures. The process is less effective in food preservation than are thermal techniques, such as boiling, because pathogens are more likely to be able to survive cold temperatures rather than hot temperatures.[15] One of the problems surrounding the use of freezing as a method of food preservation is the danger that pathogens deactivated (but not killed) by the process will once again become active when the frozen food thaws.

Foods may be preserved for several months by freezing. Long-term frozen storage requires a constant temperature of -18 °C (0 °F) or less.[16]


According to a study, an American consumes on average 71 frozen foods a year, most of which are pre-cooked frozen meals.[17] Many food critics host shows are dedicated to the tasting and reviewing of frozen foods, the web show Freezerburns being one of the more notable ones.[18]

See also[edit]


A frozen food warehouse at McMurdo Station, Antarctica
  1. ^ Tressler, Evers. The Freezing Preservation of Foods Pg 213-217
  2. ^ Smithers, Rebecca (February 10, 2012). "Sainsbury's changes food freezing advice in bid to cut food waste". The Guardian. Retrieved February 10, 2012. "Long-standing advice to consumers to freeze food on the day of purchase is to be changed by a leading supermarket chain, as part of a national initiative to further reduce food waste. [...] instead advise customers to freeze food as soon as possible up to the product's 'use by' date. The initiative is backed by the government's waste advisory body, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) [...] Bob Martin, food safety expert at the Food Standards Agency, said: "Freezing after the day of purchase shouldn't pose a food safety risk as long as food has been stored in accordance with any instructions provided. [...]"" 
  3. ^ Arsdel, Michael, Robert. Quality and Stability of Frozen Foods: TIme-Temperature Tolerance and its Significance. Pg. 67-69
  4. ^ "Frozen Foods". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 
  5. ^ Decareau, Robert. Microwave Foods: New Product Development. Pg 45-48
  6. ^ Whelan, Stare. Panic in the Pantry: Facts and Fallacies About the Food You Buy
  7. ^ Russell, Gould. Food Preservatves. Pg 314
  8. ^ Sun, Da-Wen. Handbook of Frozen Food Processing and Packaging. Pg 786-792
  9. ^ Tressler, Evers. The Freezing Preservation of Foods. Pg 620-624
  10. ^ Tressler, Evers. The Freezing Preservation of Foods. Pg 961-964
  11. ^ Tressler, Evers. The Freezing Preservation of Foods. Pg 627
  12. ^ Gould, Grahame. New Methods of Food Preservation. Pg 237-239
  13. ^ Tressler, Evers. Pg. 973-976
  14. ^ Tressler, Evers. The Freezing Preservation of Foods. Pg. 976-978
  15. ^ Mathlouthi, M. Food Packaging and Preservation. Pg 112-115
  16. ^ Tressler, Evers, Evers. Into the Freezer - and Out. Pg 56-82
  17. ^ Harris, J. Michael and Rimma Shipstova, Consumer Demand for Convenience Foods: Demographics and Expenditures, AgEcon, p. 26, retrieved 16 July 2011 
  18. ^ Stock, Sue (18 April 2010). "Web viewers warm up to frozen food show". News & Observer. Retrieved 10 July 2011. 


External links[edit]

Media related to Frozen food at Wikimedia Commons