Top 5 Frozen Food Myths in Singapore
- Author Zhang Hongjia
- Published October 30, 2021
- Word count 1,178
Who doesn’t want fresh food all year long?
The main reason to choose fresh food over frozen food lays in the belief that the latter will never win in the battle over taste and nutrients.
Believe it or not, allow me to walk the talk, to prove that frozen food shouldn’t deserve the bad rap!
Here are the top 5 myths that have kept frozen food to suffer from consumers’ misperception.
- FROZEN FOOD IS LESS NUTRITIOUS
It is very common to believe that any fresh food can best a frozen one in terms of nutritional value.
There is a saying: Fresh is best. Exactly! Frozen food is always treated as a contingency option when fresh food is unavailable. But this is not always right. In fact, frozen foods can be healthier than fresh ones.
To put it in perspective, in this case, fresh meat has a long journey from slaughterhouse to supermarket or wet market, which results in degrading of nutrients during the transitions.
Conversely, frozen meat is blast frozen to lock in the nutrients and freshness as soon as the butcher completes the cuts.
The duration from storage to the point of cooking also plays an important role in maintaining nutrients. Fresh meat that had been chilled for days in the refrigerator will not out-perform its frozen counterpart at any point in time, because it loses nutrients quicker over time without being stored in a frozen state.
- FROZEN FOOD IS HIGH IN SODIUM & ADDED PRESERVATIVES
You will be forgiven if you have this assumption. After all, many years ago, many didn’t believe you can have a quick meal that is healthy at the same time.
Added preservatives are unnecessary to increase food shelf life, given that freezing food is already a natural form of preservation. Many frozen food manufacturers, like SADIA – are free of preservatives.
Today, the frozen food market has been driven by the increasing number of people becoming health conscious. Therefore, many manufacturers are creating lots of preservative-free ready meals that are low in calories and sodium to meet the demands.
The Singapore Heart Foundation has recommended 2000mg of sodium as the daily benchmark for healthy adults, which is rather easy to exceed if you are not mindful enough. For that reason, we should aim for the lowest sodium when possible.
First, scan the packaging for the “Healthier Choice” Symbol, which indicates it is a healthier option than others.
Read the nutrition facts label too, you should aim for frozen ready meals that have less than 600 mg of sodium and less than 500 kcal of calories. On a side note, be careful to avoid those that are low in protein which is the key to keep you full longer.
- FROZEN FOOD CANT BE REFREEZE ONCE THAWED
[Do not refreeze after thawing] does this seem familiar to you?
Often seen on frozen food packaging, frozen food manufacturers play it safe because they do know that not many consumers are wary of safe thawing methods. So they trick rather than teach!
In fact, refreezing is only dangerous to food thawed at room temperature on the kitchen counter where the bacteria come back to life and begin to multiply.
Refreezing doesn’t destroy bacteria, it just keeps them inactive until the next thawing session. Imagine how contaminated thawed food can be after a couple of refreezing cycles and if cooking isn’t done properly at the right temperature, that is when food poisoning occurs.
Thaw food on the lowest shelf of refrigerator at 4℃ or lower – This will slow bacteria growth
Refreeze food at -18℃ in container, freezer bag or plastic wrap to minimize air exposure – This will prevent freezer burn
Cook food to a safe internal temperature of at least 75℃ – This will destroy most bacteria
All food thawed by other methods such as microwave or cold water is unsafe to be refrozen. Unfortunately, it is either you refreeze it after cooking or dump it raw.
Life happens and sometimes our dinners plan get adjusted. Nobody likes wasting food but it is definitely better than catching the foodborne illness.
- FROZEN FOOD TASTE DIFFERENT (IN A BAD WAY)
Sorry believers, but it’s true only if freezing and storage are not done under the right conditions.
If you remember, “Freezer burn” was mentioned seconds ago. It is a result of dehydration, specifically on frozen food with water content to being with.
The water molecules form ice crystals in the presence of air, then they escape from the food to the coldest part of the freezer, hence flavor is often lost in the process.
I bet you have seen one of those frozen food coated with a thick layer of ice crystals, it is because the surface of it will be the coldest when air movement gets restricted within a food packaging.
The best prevention is to give your food an extra layer of protection by vacuum sealing it or wrap tightly with plastic wrap. The rationale is to stop air from coming into contact with food.
The effect of the repeated freeze-thaw cycle is the next culprit that contributes to the loss of natural flavor and texture in frozen food. As water freeze to become ice, it expands and thereby forces to damage the cell walls of the food.
Oftentimes unnoticed, further damage could happen due to refroze when the temperature fluctuates in the freezer, which can be minimized by not overloading the freezer compartment, and refraining from the regular opening, and shutting off the freezer door.
And last but not least, is the speed of freezing. The faster it takes to get down below freezing point, the smaller the ice crystal formed, resulting in less severity caused to the food’s cells.
Thankfully with today’s new technology to freeze quicker, meaning that you can be assured that frozen foods retain their quality.
- FROZEN FOOD EXPIRES
Are you in dilemma to cook that bag of frozen wings, bought months ago?
The good news is YES! According to FDA, frozen food past the expiry date will be safe indefinitely so long as it has been kept frozen consistently. However, the big BUT is that quality might be compromised.
Even freeze burnt foods are safe to be consumed too.
That gives me the assumption that the expiry date is pretty much there to keep frozen food manufacturers away from being liable for their products after a certain period of time, rather than to indicate the product is unsafe to consume at any further point of time.
All said, we still trust our local authority better right? Although SFA didn’t come clear on frozen food safety beyond expiry on their site, here are their recommended durations of storing food.
THE BOTTOM LINE
FRESH ISN’T ALWAYS SO FRESH, FROZEN DOESN’T MEAN NOT FRESH.
It all depends on how you plan your meal preparation.
In my own opinion, paying more for fresh food only comes down to one logical reason: To save thawing time.
But do you know, thawing can be skipped by just increasing cook time by 50%?
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