Chilled and frozen foods

Some security problems chilled products not related to microbiology

The problems of the non-microbiological safety of refrigerated products are rarely the result of exposure to low temperature during refrigerated storage or are aggravated by this exposure. Some of them are caused by a combination of certain ingredients or minimal processing, which allows subsequent cold storage. In most cases, a reasonable choice of raw materials and a carefully planned monitoring program, based on an assessment of the risks of individual ingredients and of the final product, contribute to the safety of the product. Whenever possible, it is always preferable to limit the shelf life to changes in quality rather than safety, since changes in quality can usually be determined by smell, taste or appearance of the product, but they cannot serve as a basis for determining the moment of limiting the shelf life of the product.

Natural toxic substances

There is a tendency to associate the concept of "natural" in relation to food products with a healthy lifestyle, but in some cases there is an understanding that some chemical compounds found in natural foods can harm human health - for example, greening potatoes, which, as is commonly believed, can be harmful. Glycoalkaloids, a group of toxic compounds that can be found in potatoes stored in poor conditions, accumulate directly under the peel and around the eyes, and therefore peeling of the skin reduces the potential effects of these substances on humans. Heat treatment is not considered to decrease the concentration of glycoalkaloids [14]. As a result of recommendations to increase fiber intake, an increasing number of potato products keep their skins (for example, chilled potatoes, filled potatoes, baked potato skins), and such products may pose a greater risk. It is believed that the tubers going into food should not contain more than 20 mg glycoalkaloids per 100 g mass of fresh tubers. In order to ensure that the recommended limits are not exceeded, it is recommended to monitor the level of glycoalkaloids (especially in new cultivars), as well as to monitor after changes during storage and processing.

It has long been known that legumes contain highly toxic lectins (hemagglutinins) that agglutinate erythrocytes. Hemagglutinins have been identified in a wide range of legume seeds, including lentils, soybeans, Lim and common red beans [59]. Recently, a number of cases of food poisoning have been associated with ordinary red beans and in one case with lima beans [8,88]. The tendency to undercook beans or eat them raw (especially red beans in salads) led to numerous cases of gastrointestinal disorders. Soaking legumes for at least 5 h removes lectins, and boiling in fresh water for at least 10 mines thermally inactivates any lectins remaining, thus excluding the possibility of food poisoning.

The use of nuts, figs and dates in exotic salads, such as khokho-saf, carries the risk of contamination with mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are not natural toxic pollutants, but secondary metabolites of various fungi, for example, Aspergillus, Pénicillium and Fusarium. These types of fungi grow on a variety of substrates (they are most noticeable on cereals and peanuts), as well as other fruits with a high carbohydrate content (for example, figs) in a wide range of environmental conditions - from the tropics to the domestic refrigerator. Mycotoxins are chemically very diverse (they include such groups as afla- and ochratoxins and trichothecins), differing in complexity of molecular composition and toxicity (some are extremely toxic, while others are carcinogenic). The fight against mycotoxin contamination is reduced to the treatment that prevents the growth of mold or the formation of mycotoxins during storage [74], as well as the development of more advanced methods for their determination. Improved raw material quality and post-harvest processing combined with improved storage and marketing conditions reduce the likelihood of contamination. In accordance with the principles of quality control in accordance with the HACCP methodology, an understanding of the possibility of mycotoxin contamination should be combined with the implementation of an appropriate monitoring program, fixed in the requirements for raw materials and based on an assessment of the potential risks of pollution.


Toxic compounds formed by algae (phycotoxins) enter the food chain with seafood - mollusks or fish. The growing understanding of the usefulness of eating fish and seafood and the presence of a cold chain in the marketing of these products led to an expansion of their geographic areas and an increase in its volume [85]. Expanding seafood imports means that rarer types of phytotoxins [95] may be found in products.

It is customary to distinguish four types of seafood poisoning — paralytic mollusk poisons (PSP), mollusk diarrhea poisons (DSP), amnestic mollusk poisons (ASP), and neurotoxic mollusk poisons (NSP). Mollusks, especially bivalves, such as mussels, clams, and oysters accumulate these toxins harmless to them. Subsequent consumption of mollusks by humans produces an immediate and strong effect, depending on the type of specific toxin. The accumulation of toxins by mollusks is accompanied by high levels of the presence of certain types of algae in coastal waters, which is associated with an increase in available nutrients and light in surface waters due to seasonal climatic and hydrographic changes. In the United Kingdom, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food during high-risk periods conducts extensive monitoring of coastal waters, shellfish, and some crustaceans for PSP toxins. When toxins accumulate to levels that are considered dangerous for human consumption, there are bans on collecting mollusks [116]. Currently, it is considered the most effective method of control, since both heat treatment of mollusks and keeping them in tanks for cleaning only reduces the content of toxins accumulated by mollusks, but does not completely remove them [56].

PSP toxins are associated with algae species that are found in water where its temperature is around 15-17 ° C. The primary symptoms seen during 30 minutes after eating include tingling and numbness in the mouth and fingertips, which spread throughout the body, causing impaired muscle coordination and (in severe cases) paralysis. The main P5P toxin is saxitoxin, although 18 other toxic derivatives have been identified, which are either natural algae toxins or assimilated derivatives found in clams.

DSP-toxin intoxication is common in Japan, but their outbreaks are also recorded in France, Italy and the Netherlands. Symptoms occurring after 30 min after eating - vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. The main toxic components are okadaic acid and toxins found in mussels, clem and scallops. Denaturing of these toxins occurs only after treatment at 100 ° C for 163 min; therefore, the only real guarantee is appropriate controls and prohibitions.

It is believed that the poisoning of L5R-toxins is caused by a toxic predominant amino acid formed by diatom algae found in the coastal waters of the United States, Japan and Canada. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, and headaches leading to loss of coordination and (in severe cases) memory loss.

Poisoning with A5P-toxins is mainly associated with the consumption in North America of oysters, clem and other double-molluscs. Symptoms occur approximately 3 hours after a meal and include gastrointestinal disturbances, numbness of the mouth, muscle aches and dizziness. The dinoflagellate that causes NSP poisoning, Ptychodiscus brevis, is notorious for the massive fish death that occurs every 3-4 of the year off the west coast of Florida.

The development of appropriate chemical methods for the determination of these toxins was hampered by the lack of analytical standards. Most monitoring programs rely on the use of bioassays in mice to determine levels of toxic substances. Restricting the collection of Clem during those periods of the year when water blooms due to algae growth is currently the safest method to prevent poisoning.

Siguatera (ciguatera) is the largest global non-microbiological health problem associated with seafood. Most cases of poisoning occur in the United States, and the dangerous zones are the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as the Caribbean Sea. To date, three cases have been reported in the UK [95]. Fish that may contain this toxin include barracuda, snapper, grouper, seriola, surgeon fish and rockfish. Siguatoxin is a neuromuscular toxin that affects the membrane potential of nerve cells. The symptoms of its action are quite different depending on the absorbed dose and include vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, loss of sharpness of vision and confusion in sensations of heat and cold. Symptoms usually appear within a few hours after eating, and the effects can persist for several months. These toxins are heat resistant and are not affected by treatment. It is impossible to determine the presence of toxin by the appearance of the fish. Determination of ciguatoxins in the field has been facilitated by an immunoassay with the [38] probe.

Mackerel fish poisoning

Mackerel poisoning occurs everywhere, although the majority of cases are reported in the USA, Japan and the UK. In 1973-1987 in the USA, scubriotoxicosis caused 29% of cases of food poisoning caused by chemicals [40], and in the UK in 1976-1986. 348 suspected cases were reported [7]. Fish from the Scombridae and Scomberesocidae families (tuna, mackerel, macreleschuk, pelamid) are dangerous, but the cases of poisoning were also related to fish that do not belong to these families (in particular, with sardines, sardinops, herring, anchovies and marlin) [X].

Mackerotoxicosis is characterized by the rapid onset of symptoms (from several minutes to 2-3 h after eating fish), which can be expressed in hyperemia, headache, heart palpitations, dizziness, itching, burning in the mouth and throat, accelerated and weak pulse, appearance rashes on the face and neck, swelling of the face and tongue, spastic abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The similarity of these symptoms with the symptoms of food allergies often leads to an erroneous diagnosis.

For some reasons, histamine is considered to be a cause of mackerel toxicosis. Analysis of the fish remaining on the plate usually indicates that there is a high concentration of histamine in it; histamine metabolites are found in the urine of victims, whose symptoms resemble known reactions to histamine; the use of antihistamines reduces the severity of symptoms. [96] describes the relationship between the level of histamine and the potential for a disease. This histamine is the result of spoilage of the product and is formed due to the decarboxylation of the amino acid 1-histidine, which is abundantly found in the meat of mackerel fish. The formation of histamine requires the presence of the enzyme histamine decarboxylase, which is created by the natural microflora of the skin, intestines and gills of fish. If the fish is stored at a temperature above 4 ° C, this microflora multiplies, and the level of histamine in fish meat increases. Therefore, it seems that the prevention of poisoning with mackerel fish to a large extent depends on good organization of work with the fish - rapid cooling of the catch and appropriate cooling of the fish before preparing it for consumption.

However, in the course of the experiments, volunteers were fed intentionally damaged mackerel and mackerel with histamine supplements, but they failed to reproduce the symptoms of mackerel [21]. It was considered unlikely that histamine itself was the main cause of the disease. It has been suggested that other amines (eg, cadaverine) [9] act as a potentiating agent or a synergist of histamine. Later studies using mackerel to feed mackerel toxicosis with volunteer symptom reproduction. These studies have shown that the effect of mackerel is not related to the dose of histamine [45] or the content of other amines (cadaverine, putrescine, spermidine, spermine, tyramine); no association was found between the levels of these amines [22]. Vomiting and diarrhea were eliminated by ingestion of antihistamines. It was suggested that the observed symptoms are histamine, released by the human body as a component of the natural immune mechanism, and dietary histamine plays a secondary role in poisoning with mackerel fish, and the agent contained in the fish that triggers histamine production by the human body has not been identified.


Food allergy, unlike food intolerance, is an immunological reaction to any component of a food product. This component or antigen can cause the body to release specific antibodies (immunoglobulin E, E), which can lead to anaphylactic shock. Allergic reactions can range from simple sneezing to life-threatening conditions. Allergic reactions can be caused by different types of foods, but the most famous of them are milk, soy, shellfish, and nuts (especially peanuts). For refrigerated products, allergy problems are not specific, but their mention here is appropriate in connection with the expansion of the range of prescription refrigerated products and the severity of the possible consequences of using peanuts. Studies have shown that peanut allergy is observed in 0,5% of the UK adult population [28] and that people who are susceptible to peanuts usually respond to other types of nuts (Brazil hazelnut or American walnut) [86]. Allergenicity of peanut residues persists when heated, and it has been shown that Aga h 1, the main peanut allergen, retains its property of binding IgE despite significant denaturation of its structure [54]. Therefore, the ability to transfer allergenic material from product to product or from one process line to another makes it necessary to adhere to strict hygienic rules and related quality assurance measures. If possible, products containing peanuts should be prepared and processed in separate areas (separately from products in which consumers do not expect to meet peanuts). Quality control methods according to HACCP should be applied to identify all potential sources of mutual pollution. Where possible, it is necessary to establish product release schedules and appropriate cleaning regimes.

lipid oxidation products

Lipid oxidation products have a great influence on the organoleptic properties of food products, but the health risks that they can create, as well as their role in reducing the availability of nutrients due to the formation of free radicals and the destruction of fat-soluble vitamins A and E, should be taken into account.

Lipid hydroperoxides and their decomposition products can bind and polymerize proteins, cause damage to the membranes and biological components, thereby affecting the vital functions of the cell [30,36]. Lipid peroxides and oxidized cholesterol can be involved in the activation of tumors and the development of atherosclerosis. Malonaldehyde, a secondary product of lipid oxidation [52,81,91], is considered the catalyst for the formation of A-nitrosamines and the mutagen.

The value for the human body of products with a high level of lipid hydroperoxides and their decomposition products still requires clarification, since the rate of formation of lipid peroxides in vivo is much higher than when ingested. Nevertheless, although the possible health risks associated with lipid oxidation products remain controversial, high levels of lipid peroxides in the diet are undesirable. It was found, in particular, that further research [1] is required to improve the methods of slowing down the rancid meat preparations.


The purpose of this chapter was to illustrate with examples the effect of individual non-microbiological factors on the quality and safety of refrigerated products. The benefits that knowledge of food chemistry can bring to optimize or prevent their interactions, is obvious. At the same time, the expansion and continuation of the successful production of safe, high-quality chilled products with the desired shelf life require further research on the non-microbiological aspects of their quality.

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