The issue of freshness in food is worth careful analysis and a briefing to allow consumers a clearer orientation on what is meant by freshness of foods and what links exist between it, the organoleptic quality of the foods themselves and the ecological effects On the Planet and then on themselves.
Clearly it is natural that the consumer asks food freshness, but it often lacks not only good information on the concept of freshness of food but above all what are the links and consequences on the health of consumers to the consumption of non-fresh food products or in any case Not complying with this criterion.
Extensive surveys conducted in all European countries, particularly in the German language, show that buying fresh fruit and vegetables is one of the main reasons for regular consumer shifts.
Freshness is its dominant criterion; The good presentation of the articles, their origin, knowledge or indications regarding nutritional values and vitamin content help determine the decision to buy; It has also been established that the price plays a much less important role.
But what seems cool at first glance, is it also intrinsically?
This is a much more delicate passage and still so much is needed to determine the links between freshness and healthy aspects of foods and the fundamental parameters to be established.
All over Europe, attempts are being made to establish parameters and criteria for defining freshness. And, most importantly, what are the measuring instruments that the researchers face to establish the criterion and therefore the evaluation of freshness of fruit and vegetables?
According to Wikipedia “freshness comes from Latin priscus (near the origin) and defines the perceived state of origin of an edible product that is undergoing a process of change. This process includes the evolution of maturation.”
It should be noted that the criterion of judgment on the freshness of food varies for a number of vegetables, the state of freshness of which is easily perceptible to the appearance; It is more difficult and complicated to form a judgment on the freshness of a fruit. And it is more complex to parametrate (though intuitively understandable) how much the freshness factor affects the health of the food we consume and the consequences on our health.
To make some clarity we can make some statements to define the basic criteria for establishing the Food Freshness.
• A product is cool in the state in which it is most suitable for harvesting or consumption. What follows, workings, manipulations, transportation conditions, storage, care, and climatic conditions can cause loss of freshness.
• Fruits and vegetables are fresh when the internal and external (consistency) characteristics remain unchanged near consumption.
• Fruits and vegetables are fresh when, at the time of consumption, their nutritional and physiological values remain unaltered.
• Fruits and vegetables are fresh when, at the time of consumption, the taste and tasting potential are unaltered.
• Fruits and vegetables are fresh when they pass the consumer’s visual and, possibly, tactile exam.
• The dynamics of decay factors affect the time period within which a product, in the consumer’s possession, maintains its suitability for consumption.
• Conservation by means of technical means of a product, it extends life but does not affect the freshness.
• The ideal point of freshness is determined by the maximum values of all organoleptic characteristics, qauli: contained in nutrients, taste, texture, etc.
• To be perceived as fresh the fruit and vegetables must be free from any traces of deterioration.
Retardant technologies (deterioration slows) can be applied to slow down the freshness of foods.
The deterioration process begins with the crop. There are, though contradictory, technologies and processes seem to slow down the deterioration process as much as possible.
It is worthwhile, for clarity, to list what these systems are:
• Refrigeration / Refrigeration: Refrigeration is the most used and most natural method to slow down the aging process and deterioration, which is to delay the loss of freshness. Expensive refrigeration, warehousing and transport facilities require strong investments. Monitoring and temperature monitoring for individual products are an important element of minimizing the possible loss of freshness.
• Controlled atmosphere: in the so-called gas cell the product is stored at a very low temperature, relatively high humidity and a very high content of CO2. This is achieved either by a strong slow-down or even by the interruption of ripening. This method is quite expensive and is not suitable for all products.
• Hydrocooling: This technique involves immersing the products in freezing water. With this method, the core core temperature is lowered in a very short time and the maturation process slowed down. In the case of other cooling practices, such as Vacuum cooling, it does not take away moisture from the fruit, which will last longer. The technique is particularly suitable for moisture-sensitive products, eg. Hazelnut fruits (cherries) and fennel.
• Freezing: Frozen products are not considered fresh, although fruits and vegetables, frozen at the ideal crop time, are the coolest products, provided that the cold chain has been perfectly handled at the prescribed temperatures.
But how can we determine the freshness of a product?
We see that there are some criteria ranging from subjective and personal to technological and analytical ones. Let’s see some criteria:
• Optical, texture and perfume: our senses allow us to recognize the freshness of a product, although each one of us may have a different concept of freshness. Many people consider fresh and tasty a stramatic fruit, coming out of the refrigerator intact. Maybe somebody would prefer a crunchy peach, which others would define crisp and unmistakable. Only if you have a manual of accurate specifications and have been trained and updated regularly, a team of controllers can be able to judge objectively and consistently the freshness of a product and ensure that judgment can be shared by a significant number of people .
• Technological: freshness can be determined only at high cost and also here are several methods that are subjectively constructed. Objective freshness, apart from the definition that a product must be healthy, can only be ascertained in part and in practice it is still a utopia. No measuring instruments are available that will establish the actual freshness of a product and can be used to control all or part of a product. You can measure the content of water, sugar and texture. To obtain valid conclusions, it is necessary to develop common parameters for thousands of databases. Intense efforts are under way and there may be a tool in the future that will allow us to establish the actual freshness of a product, its crop age and those values that reflect our freshness, or subjective freshness.
• Traceability and intrinsic values: they are actually the most important tools that allow us to comment on the freshness of a fruit today. Based on the documentation of each lot, from the collection site to the supply, conclusions can be drawn on the degree of freshness of a product. In this regard, control algorithms can be developed which, with good approximation, define a good concept of freshness of foods.
But then how is the ideal freshness maintained?
We say that the speed between harvesting and consumption is the main factor in maintaining freshness. The starting point is the time of the survey, properly identified and executed according to the specifications of each product. From this moment you have to waste time and from this point on is a logistical problem, ie distribution times. Therefore, in order to have fresh products, it should be clarified that the main and determining factors are:
• Continuous control of intrinsic values;
• Continuous control of gourmet values;
• Direct transport routes;
• Preferences for the nearest production areas;
• Controlled transport;
• Carefully trained staff;
• Excluding production inventories;
• No remnant in platforms, distribution centers, and shops.
All this sets a key scenario in the future, not just distribution systems for agri-food products but also production systems.
Maintaining freshness criteria for foods, with the same intrinsic characteristics of the starting product, is increasingly growing, even from the energy point of view, as we must create the means to allow the agri-food chain to ensure a fresh product. To illustrate this concept, just think that an apple harvested and eaten directly beneath the tree (always with the same intrinsic characteristics of the product) is fresh, does not require slowing down systems of organoleptic and nutritional deterioration and, therefore, to say it With a modern energy concept, has a low ecological footprint; In short, it burns the planet more slowly.
But there is more: the greater freshness of the product allows a nutritional value and, allow me, spiritual, higher. In a few words, greater welfare for the man who feeds in these conditions.
We can thus define two criteria:
• The concentration of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere is also fought at the table;
• Quality of life passes by concepts of proximity between Nature (Food Provider) and Man (the recipient of its services).
Concerning the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, today it has reached 387 parts per million (ppm), which, as evidenced by the most advanced scientific research, is certainly the highest in the last 800,000 years and Every chance of the last 20 million years. Much of the international scientific community points to a “planetary boundary”, which is a limit that should not be overcome for the profoundly negative effects that could occur for our societies, that of 350.
A recent study carried out by the team of Professor Riccardo Valentini, biophysical and responsible for the Forest Ecology Laboratory at the University of Tuscia in Viterbo, showed that, as a whole, among other data, the average Italian citizen for his food needs contributes with 1,778 Kg CO2eq per year on the national emission budget.
The greenhouse production of 1 kg of tomatoes releases 3.5 kg of CO2eq, compared to less than 0.05 kg of the same amount of tomatoes produced in a field, a difference of 70 times. Not to mention that air transport of foodstuffs (strawberries, apples, tomatoes, asparagus, courgettes, etc.) from one end of the planet can generate about 1,700 times more CO2 emissions than a 50 km freight truck. Until some decades ago, the food traveled short routes from the producer to the consumer; Today, however, they cross the oceans and continents. Current estimates show that 98% of Italian fresh agricultural production is transported at a distance of more than 50 km from the production site.
The increased mobility of goods presents its “ecological backpack” with a drastic increase in CO2 emissions, as well as other pollutants. One kilogram of kiwi coming from New Zealand runs about 18,000 km and emits about 25 kg of CO2, 1 kg of peaches from Argentina runs over 12,000 km and emits about 16 kg of CO2.
That is why the concept of “zero-kilometer food” is not a sentimental matter of someone but a priority factor for consuming seasonal and seasonal products. And again, it is important to prefer small packaged products. Another high voice from the point of view of the environmental impact is that the estimated food packaging is equivalent to 225 kg CO2 per capita per year, especially for certain products and for bottled alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks.
It is ecologically important to learn to eat less meat but, in this regard, it should be emphasized that the CO2 emissions data or the water needs of farms have often been set for intensive livestock production, while a different discourse is to be made For companies that introduce within them a load of livestock that is eco-sustainable and necessary for the closure of the company’s thermodynamic cycle.
As far as quality of life is concerned, based on concepts of proximity between Nature (Food Provider) and Man (user of its services), it should be emphasized here how the entire production organization and the distances between the two factors involved Nature / Men are completely revisited by dragging with an epochal revolution.
You can not expect food freshness without a conscience about what this is and how it can be obtained with a minimal ecological footprint.
Unfortunately, such arguments seem to be absent (or vanished as the case may be) from the political debate and it is good and right to raise awareness of the public so that with the growth of this critical mass of “Consciousness” Policy on these aspects.
The next time someone tells you: that product is cool, ask a few questions and then answer that freshness (as long as there is) how much it is costing us in personal and collective terms.