During meal preparation for their children, parents surely are concerned about food hygiene for the sakes of their loved ones.
Frozen food. Source: frozenor.com
Most people think all food stored in the refrigerator or freezer will be safe from disease-causing microbes. In contrary, the fact is that cold-stored or frozen foods are not guaranteed to be hygienic and safe to consume. Let’s investigate why this is the case.
Certain microbes in your food ingredients may cause diseases such as diarrhea or symptoms of food poisoning such as vomiting. Therefore, food ingredients are generally stored in the refrigerator or freezer to suppress harmful microbial growth or to slow down food spoilage. However, do you that the bacterium Vibrio cholera can survive in low temperature? This was revealed by Diana E. Waturangi, Ph.D., through her research in 2015, in which she and her team demonstrated the presence of disease-causing microbes in cold-stored and frozen food products.
Vibrio cholerae (left) & Escherichia coli (right). Source: Robert Koch Institute dan National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – NIH
Dr. Waturangi’s research showed that Vibrio cholerae may live up to 3 months in the refrigerator (4ºC) or freezer (-20ºC). Aside of Vibrio, other bacterium such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) can also survive in low temperature. Both bacteria were also found in ice chips and meat products, such as in nuggets, frozen chicken fillet, and frozen fish balls.
Frozen meat. Sumber: bbq4all.com
On the other hand, cold-stored milk and frozen goods high in fiber are less prone to such contamination. Both Vibrio cholerae and E. coli can only survive for a month in these products.
“The main source of contamination in food or beverages is from the water. Poor quality of ingredients will result in poor quality of products.”
— Diana E. Waturangi, Ph.D.
Dr. Waturangi stated that she conducted this research because food safety remains to be an issue in Indonesia, especially regarding food and beverages sold by street vendors, including those around the school environment.
More information on her findings can be accessed here.
We might find comfort knowing that in Indonesia, commercial food and beverages are subject to various testing by BPOM (Indonesian National Agency of Drug and Food Control), therefore they are safe to consume. Despite that, we should always be careful in preparing our meals, for example by washing fruits and vegetables before storage and by keeping raw ingredients and cooked food in separate racks in the refrigerator.
This article is written by Melina, Elisabeth, Gabriella, and Ivana Purnawidjaja as a project for Science Communication course. They are in the class of 2014, Biologi Program, Faculty of Biotechnology, Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia.
Editor: Watumesa Tan