Food Preservation as a Tool for Food Security
The pandemic, international conflicts, climate change have exposed how easily supply chains are disrupted and shown us that supermarket shelves can become empty overnight. Newspapers and TV news headlines increasingly highlight food security or supply chain issues.
The main concern is not just the possibility that some kinds of gourmet or imported exotic products may become unavailable, but the availability of food in general. In this context, ‘the art of food preservation has resurfaced as a modern-day survival skill’ (Medium, 2023). Food preservation techniques have been used for centuries to extend the shelf life of perishable goods, reduce food waste, and ensure a stable food supply. In this article, we would like to explore the significance of food preservation in the context of food security.
Food security is not just about having enough food; it is about ensuring that food is accessible, safe, and nutritionally adequate. It is a fundamental human right and a vital component of economic and social development. Food preservation methods are indispensable for achieving food security. They help address multiple challenges associated with food supply and distribution:
1. Reducing food waste
Food preservation techniques, such as canning, drying, and freezing help extend the shelf life of perishable goods. This reduces the amount of food wasted due to spoilage.
2. Storage and distribution
Preserved food can be stored and transported over longer distances, making it possible to distribute it to areas where it is needed most, even during adverse conditions.
3. Seasonal availability
Preservation permits the availability of certain foods all year round. This is especially important in regions with distinct growing seasons.
4. Emergency preparedness
Food preservation contributes to disaster assistance and recovery. Stockpiled preserved foods can serve as vital resources in times of crisis, such as natural disasters, pandemics, conflicts.
5. Dietary Diversity
Preserved food allow for dietary diversity by making a wider range of nutriments available. This helps combat malnutrition by ensuring access to various nutrients.
Common Food Preservation Techniques
Several food preservation methods have been developed over the centuries, each suited to distinct types of food and specific goals. ‘Among the oldest methods of preservation are drying, refrigeration, and fermentation. Modern methods include canning, pasteurization, freezing, irradiation, and the addition of chemicals. Advances in packaging materials have also played an important role in modern food preservation.’ (Britannica, 2023).
Some of the most popular preservation methods are:
Canning. It involves sealing food in airtight containers to prevent spoilage. It is widely used for fruits, vegetables, and meat products.
Drying. Removing moisture from food, which also prevents the growth of microorganisms. Common examples include dried fruits, jerky, and herbs.
Freezing. Freezing preserves food by inhibiting the growth of spoilage-causing bacteria. It is used for a wide variety of products, including vegetables, meat, and seafood.
Fermentation. This is the process of converting carbohydrates into alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms. Examples of fermented products include yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
Salting. Preserving food using salt is a traditional method for fish and some meats.
Pickling. Food is preserved in a solution of acid, such as vinegar. Pickles and pickled vegetables are common examples.
Smoking. Smoking food enhance its flavour and acts as a preservative. It is often used for fish, meat, and cheese.
Preserving food reduces waste but also allows access to a reliable and diverse food range. Therefore, it is crucial to promote awareness of food preservation techniques, support research and development in this field, and encourage sustainable practices that minimise environmental impact.
With the continued growth of the global population and the challenges caused by climate change, food preservation remains an essential tool for achieving food security and reducing of hunger and malnutrition worldwide.
What preservation methods do you use at home? Share them with us!