European University of Lefke (EUL) Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Technologies Faculty Member Assist. Prof. Dr. İbrahim Kahramanoğlu stated that with the COVID-19 outbreak, packaged foods, which is an important issue, are being discussed again.
Stating that the harvested fresh fruits and vegetables are alive, Kahramanoğlu stated that these products continue to breathe after the harvest and deteriorate as they respiration. Kahramanoğlu continued as follows: Today, factors such as unfavorable environmental conditions caused by various reasons, decreasing water resources, decreasing water quality and erosion significantly reduce agricultural productivity. Despite all the difficulties, a very significant part of the products produced (between 30-50% although it varies from product to product) deteriorates during storage and marketing and does not reach the end consumer. This degradation applies not only to primary agricultural products but also to processed foods. In order to prevent post-harvest (post-processing) losses in foods, many methods are used, which differ according to the type of food. Whether the foods are vegetable, animal, processed or primary type significantly affects the method to be chosen. The most known of these methods are: drying, boiling, pasteurization, freezing, preserving cold, canning, confectionery, pickles, pesticides against rot (synthetic and / or biological), packaging, vacuum packaging, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), preservative use (synthetic and / or biological), irradiation and high pressure packaging.
At this point, Kahramanoğlu stated that it is necessary to talk about the difference between packaged (packaged) food and ready-to-eat food. “Ready-to-eat” is mostly used to describe foods that have undergone a preliminary preparation, are sold in packaged form, and contain additives, food dyes and chemicals that will make the food in it last longer. Another feature of these foods is that they are foods that can be served and consumed directly or by applying a much lower level of processing (heating) than normal after they are removed from their packaging. Although some of the chemicals used to increase the quality of the preservation are completely natural and harmless, a significant portion of them have properties that can have negative effects on human health in the long term. The most important known harm of ready-made foods is obesity.
Although the use of food additives was given as a result of long researches, many additives that were accepted as safe yesterday are prohibited today because of their negative effects, Kahramanoğlu recommended that a diet that is completely indexed to ready-made foods should be avoided. Emphasizing that diversity is important in nutrition on this occasion, Kahramanoğlu drew attention to the fact that excess of everything is harmful and emphasized the importance of listening to the opinions of nutritionists for a healthy diet.
Pointing out that not every packaged food is ready-to-eat food, Kahramanoğlu emphasized that the modified atmosphere (MAP) packages used in primary agricultural products (fresh fruits and vegetables) regulate the respiration of products and increase their shelf life. In addition, there are many FDA (American Food and Drug Administration) approved film materials that can be used in fresh fruit and vegetable packaging. The process for most of these types of foods is limited to cleaning, washing and packaging the products. The products produced and packaged in this way are safe, if no mistakes are made during the production phase, hygiene rules are respected and the correct (approved) materials are used. This type of packaging also acts as a protective coating in terms of preventing contact with air and contamination of the products with air.
Emphasizing that these and similar packaged products are more preferred in the current pandemic period, Kahramanoğlu continued as follows; “Although COVID-19 viruses are thought to spread from person to person, mostly through respiratory droplets when a patient / carrier coughs, sneezes or talks, these droplets settle on food and a person is exposed to a surface, including food or food packaging with the virus. or by touching the object and then touching its own mouth, nose, or possibly eyes, it may be possible to catch COVID-19. Although there is no clear opinion in the scientific world in this direction, a perception develops in this direction among consumers.
Kahramanoğlu: consumers prefer packaged products more, recently
Kahramanoğlu mentioned that “although it is thought that this is not the main way the virus spreads, the existence of this possibility, and especially the increased interest and awareness of humans in invisible viruses and bacteria with COVID-19, have increased the importance of packaged foods.”
“It is important to always wash our hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds after shopping, after handling food packages or before preparing or eating food. If there is no soap and water, it is recommended to use a hand disinfectant containing at least 70% alcohol. In this context, Kahramanoğlu pointed out that the fact that the foods are packaged and the packaging can be removed and disposed (recyclable) or easier to wash causes consumers to prefer packaged products, and that the packaging materials and processing techniques used are approved by the Ministry of Health.