- Open Access
A review on mechanisms and commercial aspects of food preservation and processing
- Sadat Kamal Amit†1,
- Md. Mezbah Uddin†1,
- Rizwanur Rahman1,
- S. M. Rezwanul Islam1 and
- Mohidus Samad Khan1Email author
© The Author(s) 2017
- Received: 4 May 2017
- Accepted: 26 June 2017
- Published: 21 November 2017
Food preservation involves different food processing steps to maintain food quality at a desired level so that maximum benefits and nutrition values can be achieved. Food preservation methods include growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, and distribution of foods. The key objectives of food preservation are to overcome inappropriate planning in agriculture, to produce value-added products, and to provide variation in diet. Food spoilage could be caused by a wide range of chemical and biochemical reactions. To impede chemical and microbial deterioration of foods, conventional and primitive techniques of preserving foods like drying, chilling, freezing, and pasteurization have been fostered. In recent years, the techniques to combat these spoilages are becoming sophisticated and have gradually altered to a highly interdisciplinary science. Highly advanced technologies like irradiation, high-pressure technology, and hurdle technology are used to preserve food items. This review article presents and discusses the mechanisms, application conditions, and advantages and disadvantages of different food preservation techniques. This article also presents different food categories and elucidates different physical, chemical, and microbial factors responsible for food spoilage. Furthermore, the market economy of preserved and processed foods has been analyzed in this article.
- Food category
- Food spoilage
- Food preservation
- Food processing
- Global market
Foods are organic substances which are consumed for nutritional purposes. Foods are plant or animal origin and contain moisture, protein, lipid, carbohydrate, minerals, and other organic substances. Foods undergo spoilage due to microbial, chemical, or physical actions. Nutritional values, color, texture, and edibility of foods are susceptible to spoilage . Therefore, foods are required to be preserved to retain their quality for longer period of time. Food preservation is defined as the processes or techniques undertaken in order to maintain internal and external factors which may cause food spoilage. The principal objective of food preservation is to increase its shelf life retaining original nutritional values, color, texture, and flavor.
The history of ‘Food Preservation’ dates back to ancient civilization when the primitive troupe first felt the necessity for preserving food after hunting a big animal, which could not be able to eat at a time. Knowing the techniques of preserving foods was the first and most important step toward establishing civilization. Different cultures at different times and locations used almost the similar basic techniques to preserve food items .
Conventional food preservation techniques like drying, freezing, chilling, pasteurization, and chemical preservation are being used comprehensively throughout the world. Scientific advancements and progresses are contributing to the evolution of existing technologies and innovation of the new ones, such as irradiation, high-pressure technology, and hurdle technology [3–5]. The processing of food preservation has become highly interdisciplinary since it includes stages related to growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, and distribution of foods. Therefore, an integrated approach would be useful to preserve food items during food production and processing stages.
At present, the global market of the processed food items is about 7 trillion dollars, which is gradually growing with time . Rapid globalization and industrialization are the major contributing factors for the progress of food processing industries in different countries. An analysis of the UNIDO Industrial Statistics Database (2005) shows that food processing in developing countries is an auspicious component of the manufacturing sector, and the contribution of food processing industries to the national GDP increases with country’s national income [7, 8].
Classification of foods based on functions and nutrients 
Body building and repairing foods
Milk, meat, fish, pulses, vegetables, and nuts
Oil, butter, sugar, cereals, dry fruits, and starch foods
Water, raw vegetables, citrus fruits, and beverages
Milk, whole grain cereals, meat, vegetables, and fruits
Rice, wheat, and starchy vegetables
Milk, meat, fish, egg, and nuts
Oils, butter, and egg yolk
Vitamin- and mineral-rich foods
Fruits and vegetables
Food categories based on shelf life
Food spoilage is a natural process; through this process, food gradually loses its color, texture, flavor, nutritional qualities, and edibility. Consumption of spoiled food can lead to illness and in the extreme situation to death . Considering the self life, food items can be classified as perishable, semi-perishable, and non-perishable .
Perishable Foods that have shelf life ranging from several days to about three weeks are known as perishable. Milk and dairy products, meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood are the examples of perishable food items. If special preservation techniques are not apprehended, food items could be spoiled straight away .
Semi-perishable Different food items can be preserved for long time (about six months) under proper storage conditions. These foods are known as semi-perishable. Vegetables, fruits, cheeses, and potatoes are few examples of semi-perishable food items.
Non-perishable Natural and processed foods that have indefinite shelf life are called non-perishable food items. These foods can be stored for several years or longer. Dry beans, nuts, flour, sugar, canned fruits, mayonnaise, and peanut butter are few examples of non-perishable foods.
Food categories based on functions and nutrients
According to the functions to human body, food items can be categorized as: (a) body building and repairing foods, (b) energy-giving foods, (c) regulatory foods, and (d) protective foods. Depending on the nutrition value, food items can be classified as: (a) carbohydrate-rich foods, (b) protein-rich foods, (c) fat-rich foods, and (d) vitamin- and mineral-rich foods. Table 1 presents different food items according to their functions and nutrients.
Food categories based on extent and purpose of processing
Food classification based on the extent and purpose of processing 
Extent and purpose of processing
Unprocessed or minimally processed foods
No processing or mostly physical processes used to make single whole foods more available, accessible, palatable, or safe
Fresh, chilled, frozen, vacuum-packed fruits, vegetables, cereals; fresh frozen and dried beans and other pulses; dried fruits, unsalted nuts, and seeds; fresh, dried, chilled, frozen meats, poultry, and fish; fresh and pasteurized milk, yoghurt, eggs, tea, and coffee
Processed culinary or food industry ingredients
Extraction and purification of components of foods, resulting in producing ingredients used in the preparation and cooking of dishes and meals, or in the formulation of ultra-processed foods
Vegetables, butter, milk cream, sweeteners, raw pastas, and noodles; food industry ingredients, such as high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and cosmetic additives
Ultra-processed food products
Processing of a mix of process culinary, or food industry ingredients and processed or minimally processed foodstuffs in order to produce accessible, convenient, palatable, ready-to-eat or to-heat food products with longer shelf life
Breads, biscuits, cakes, and pastries; ice-cream, chocolates, cereal bars, chips; sugared fruits, milk drinks, and other soft drinks; pre-prepared meat, poultry, fish, and vegetable; processed meat including chicken nuggets, hot dogs, sausages, burgers; salted, pickled, smoked, or cured meat and fish; vegetables bottled or canned in brine; fish canned in oil
Food spoilage due to physical changes or instability is defined as physical spoilage. Moisture loss or gain, moisture migration between different components, and physical separation of components or ingredients are the examples of physical spoilage [9, 15–24]. The key factors affecting physical spoilage are moisture content, temperature, glass transient temperature, crystal growth, and crystallization.
A frequent cause of degradation of food products is the change in their water content. It may occur in the form of water loss, water gain, or migration of water . Moisture transfer in food is directly related to the water activity (a w) of food item [9, 26]. Water activity (a w) is a thermodynamic property which is expressed as the ratio of the vapor pressure of water in a system to the vapor pressure of pure water at the same temperature [15, 27]. Equilibrium relative humidity at the same temperature may also be used in lieu of pure water vapor pressure. Water activity in food products reduces with temperature. In general, water activity of foods at normal temperature is 1.0, whereas at −20 and −40 °C temperatures the water activities are 0.82 and 0.68, respectively [16, 17, 21].
The effect of temperature is the most significant factor in the case of fruit and vegetable spoilage. There is an optimum temperature range for slow ripening and to maximize post-harvest life. Slow ripening also requires an optimum relative humidity along with optimum air movement around fruit and vegetable. Apparently, these optimum conditions are called modified atmospheres (MA). Temperature usually besets the metabolism of the commodities and contemporarily alters the rate of attaining desired MA . Low temperature can also have a negative effect on foods that are susceptible to freeze damage. At a lower temperature, when food products become partially frozen, breakage in cells occurs which damages the product. Most tropical fruits and vegetables are sensitive to chilling injury. This generally occurs before the food product starts to freeze at a temperature in between 5 °C and 15 °C .
Glass transition temperature
Glass transition temperature (T g) effects the shelf life of food products. Solids in food items may exist in a crystalline state or in an amorphous metastable state. This phenomenon depends on the composition of solids, temperature, and relative humidity . The amorphous matrix may exist either as a very viscous glass or as a more liquid-like rubber . At glass transition temperature, changes occur from the glassy state to rubbery state. This is a second-order phase transition process, which is temperature specific for each food. The physical stability of foods is related to the glass transition temperature. Glass transition temperature (T g) depends strongly on concentration of water and other plasticizers . When dry food products are kept in highly humid conditions, the state of food products changes due to glass transition phenomena .
Crystal growth and crystallization
Freezing can also contribute to food degradation. Foods, which undergo slow freezing or multiple freeze, suffer severely due to crystal growth. They are subject to large extracellular ice growth. Rapid freezing forms ice within food cells, and these foods are more stable than slow freezing processed foods . To minimize large ice crystal growth, emulsifiers and other water binding agents can be added during freezing cycles .
Foods with high sugar content can undergo sugar crystallization either by moisture accumulation or by increasing temperature. As a consequence, sugar comes to the surface from inside, and a gray or white appearance is noticed. Staling of sugar cookies, graininess in candies, and ice creams are the results of sugar crystallization . Sugar crystallization can be delayed by the addition of fructose or starch. Moreover, above the respective glass transition temperature, time plays a crucial role in sugar crystallization process of food items .
Microbial spoilage is a common source of food spoilage, which occurs due to the action of microorganisms. It is also the most common cause of foodborne diseases. Perishable foods are often attacked by different microorganisms. The growth of most microorganisms can be prevented or lingered by adjusting storage temperature, reducing water activity, lowering pH, using preservatives, and using proper packaging .
Microorganisms involved in food spoilage
Grow across a wide range of temperature
Bottled mineral water, fermented foods
Grow around a broad range of acidic pH
Grow across a wide range of temperature, but prefer natural ambient temperature
Heat resistant and can survive under scorching sunlight
Broad pH range
Prefer growth at high temperature (≥55 °C)
Above 0.9 for gram positive and above 0.98 for gram negative
Fresh meat, poultry, sea food, eggs, and heat-treated foods
Factors affecting microbial spoilage
There are intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can affect microbial spoilage in foods . The intrinsic properties of foods determine the expected shelf life or perishability of foods and also affect the type and rate of microbial spoilage. Endogenous enzymes, substrates, sensitivity of light, and oxygen are the primary intrinsic properties associated with food spoilage . To control food quality and safety, these properties can be controlled during food product formulation . Intrinsic factors of food spoilage include pH, water activity, nutrient content, and oxidation–reduction potential [9, 10, 29]. Extrinsic factors of food spoilage include relative humidity, temperature, presence, and activities of other microbes [9, 29].
Chemical and biochemical reactions occur naturally in foods and lead to unpleasant sensory results in food products. Fresh foods may undergo elementary quality changes caused by: (a) microbial growth and metabolism which results in pH changes, (b) toxic compounds, and/or (c) the oxidation of lipids and pigments in fat which results in undesirable flavors and discoloration [33, 34]. Chemical spoilage is interrelated with microbial actions. However, oxidation phenomena are purely chemical in nature and also dependent on temperature variations .
Taste of different amino acids
No taste/barely perceptible taste
d-Alanine, d-arginine, l-arginine, d-aspartate, l-aspartate, d-glutamate, l-histidine, d-isoleucine, l-isoleucine, d-lysine, l-lysine, d-proline, l-proline, d-serine, l-serine, l-threonine, d-valine, l-valine
d-Tryptophan, d-histidine, d-phenylalanine, d-tyrosine, d-leucine, l-alanine, glycine
l-Tryptophan, l-phenylalanine, l-tyrosine, l-leucine
d-Cysteine, l-cysteine, d-methionine, l-methionine
Putrefaction refers to the series of anaerobic reactions through which amino acids detour to a mixture of amines, organic acids, and stiff-smelling sulfur compounds, such as mercaptans and hydrogen sulfide. This is a biochemical phenomenon as the presence of bacteria is exigent all through the process. Along with amino acids, indole, phenols, and ammonia are also formed due to protein putrefaction . Most of these chemicals have displeasing odor. Putrefaction is quite common in meats and other protein-rich foods at temperatures greater than 15 °C. This elevated temperature facilitates microbial activities [35, 39].
Non-enzymatic browning, which is also known also as Maillard reaction, is another primary cause of food spoilage. This reaction occurs in the amino group of proteins, or the amino acids present in foods. Color darkening, reducing proteins solubility, developing bitter flavors, and reducing nutritional availability of certain amino acids are the common outcomes of Maillard reaction. This reaction occurs during the storing of dry milk, dry whole eggs, and breakfast cereals .
Pectins are complex mixtures of polysaccharides that make up almost one-third of the cell wall of dicotyledonous and some monocotyledonous plants [41, 42]. Indigenous pectinases are synthesized or activated during ripening of fruits and cause pectin hydrolysis which softens the structure of food. Damages of fruits and vegetables by mechanical means may also activate pectinases and initiate microbial attack . Pectin substances may also be de-esterified by the action of pectin methyl esterase. This esterification process is initiated in situ on damaged tissues, firm fruits, and vegetables by strengthening the cell walls and enhancing intercellular cohesion via a mechanism involving calcium. Metal ions catalyze the decomposition of heat-labile fruit pigments, which consist of pectin ingredients. This process causes the color change in fruit jams or jellies . Therefore, jams and jellies are preserved in glass containers rather than metallic jars.
Hydrolytic rancidity causes lipid degradation by the action of lipolytic enzymes. In this reaction, free fatty acids are cleaved off triglyceride molecules in the presence of water. These free fatty acids have rancid flavors or odor . The released volatile fatty acids have a stiff malodor and taste; therefore, hydrolytic rancidity is extremely noticeable in fats, such as butter .
Drying or dehydration is the process of removing water from a solid or liquid food by means of evaporation. The purpose of drying is to obtain a solid product with sufficiently low water content. It is one of the oldest methods of food preservation . Water is the prerequisite for the microorganisms and enzymes to activate food spoilage mechanisms. In this method, the moisture content is lowered to the point where the activities of these microorganisms are inhibited [29, 50]. Most microorganisms can grow at water activity above 0.95. Bacteria are inactive at water activity below 0.9. Most of the microorganisms cannot grow at water activity below 0.88 [51, 52].
Drying has numerous advantages. It reduces weight and volume of foods, facilitates foods storage, packaging, and transportation, and also provides different flavors and smells. With all these benefits, drying is apparently the cheapest method of food preservation . However, this process also has limitations. In some cases, significant loss of flavor and aroma has been observed after drying. Some functional compounds like vitamin C, thiamin, protein, and lipid are also lost because of drying [54–56].
Classification of drying Drying can be classified into three major groups: convective, conductive, and radiative. Convective drying is the most popular method to obtain over 90% dehydrated foods. Depending on the mode of operation, dryers can be classified as batch or continuous. For smaller-scale operations and short residence times, batch dryers are preferred. Continuous method of drying is preferential when long periodic operations are required and drying cost is needed to curtail .
Foods to be dried
Processing temperature and time
70 °C for 2–3 h; 55 °C until dry
45 °C until dry
70 °C for 1–2 h; 55 °C until dry
60 °C for 1–2 h; 55 °C until dry
60 °C for 2–3 h; 55 °C until dry
60 °C for 2 h; 55 °C until dry
25–30 °C for 2–3 h; increase to 50 °C until dry
70 °C for 1–2 h; 55 °C until dry
30 °C to 50 °C; may be room dried
4 °C under high pressure for 15–20 min
70 °C for 30 min
80 °C for 2 h
Pasteurization of different foods 
Typical temperature–time combination used
Fruit juice (pH < 4.5)
Inactivation of enzymes (pectinesterase, polygalacturonase)
Destruction of spoilage-causing microorganisms (Salmonella enterica, Cryptosporidium parvum)
65 °C for 30 min, 77 °C for 1 min, or 88 °C for 15 s
Beer (pH < 4.5)
Destruction of spoilage-causing microorganisms (wild yeasts, Lactobacillus species)
Destruction of spoilage-causing microorganisms
65 to 68 °C for 20 min (in bottle) or 72–74 °C for 1–4 min at 900–1000 kPa
Milk (pH > 4.5)
Destruction of pathogens (Brucellaabortis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis)
Destruction of spoilage-causing microorganisms (Streptococcus laptis, Streptococcus cremoris) and enzymes
63 °C for 30 min or 71.5 °C for 15 s
Destruction of pathogens (Salmonella seftenburg)
Destruction of spoilage-causing microorganisms
64.4 °C for 2.5 min or 60 °C for 3.5 min
Typical temperature–time combination
65 °C for 30 min
72 °C for 15–30 s
135–150 °C for a few seconds
Butter milk and sour cream
Milk, eggnog, frozen dessert mixes, fruit juices, etc.
Shelf life increase (milk)
Several days when refrigerated
2–3 weeks when refrigerated
6–9 months when aseptically packaged
Type of microbes destroyed
All bacteria and spores
High heat of pasteurization process may damage some vitamins, minerals, and beneficial bacteria during pasteurization. At pasteurization temperature, Vitamin C is reduced by 20 per cent, soluble calcium and phosphorus are reduced by 5 per cent, and thiamin and vitamin B12 are reduced by 10 per cent. In fruit juices, pasteurization causes reduction in vitamin C, ascorbic acid, and carotene. However, these losses can be considered minor from nutritional point of view [44, 72].
Mild heat treatment process. Temperature level 65–75 °C (exception: UHT)
Severe heat treatment process. 135–140 °C and up to 150 °C are applied
Status of heat-resisting microorganisms
Many heat-resisting microorganisms, viruses, and spores may remain alive
Bacteria species, spores, and thermophiles
Change in nutritional capacity and profile
Fats, protein, and sugar may decompose; calcium, minerals, and vitamins may escape
Product parameter (pH)
3.5 < pH < 4.6
pH > 4.6
Shelf life extension
For few days to weeks
Low capital investment and higher flexibility
Initial investment is high
Energy and labor intensive
Provides scope for energy saving
Time of heating to sterilization temperature
Cooling time after sterilization
Useful in food processing operations which produce a mix of products in a number of package sizes
Baby foods in jar, pet foods, soup, canned meat, and beverages; acidic foods such as tomato products
Aseptic packaging involves placing commercially sterilized food in a sterilized package which is then subsequently sealed in an aseptic environment . Conventional aseptic packaging utilizes paper and plastic materials. Sterilization can be achieved either by heat treatment, by chemical treatment, or by attributing both of them . Aseptic packaging is highly used to preserve juices, dairy products, tomato paste, and fruit slices . It can increase the shelf life of food items to a large extent; as an example, UHT pasteurization process can extend the shelf life of liquid milk from 19 to 90 days, whereas combined UHT processing and aseptic packaging extend shelf life to six months or more. Packages used for aseptic processing are produced from plastics having relative softening temperature. Moreover, aseptic filling can accept a wide range of packaging materials including: (a) metal cans sterilized by superheated steam, (b) paper, foil, and plastic laminates sterilized by hot hydrogen peroxide, and (c) a variety of plastic and metal containers sterilized by high-pressure steam . Wide variation of packages thus enhances proficiency of aseptic packaging and diminishes cost.
The direct approach of aseptic packaging comprises of steam injunction and steam infusion. On the other hand, indirect approach of aseptic packaging includes exchanging heat through plate heat exchanger, scrapped surface heat exchanger, and tubular heat exchanger . Steam injection is one of the fastest methods of heating and often removes volatile substances from some food products. On the contrary, steam infusion offers higher control over processing conditions than steam injection and minimizes the risk of overheating products. Steam infusion is suitable to treat viscous foods . Tubular heat exchangers are adopted for operations at higher pressures and flow rates. These exchangers are not very flexible to withstand production capacity alteration, and their use is only limited to low viscous foods. Plate exchangers, on the other hand, overcome these problems. However, frequent cleaning and sterilizing requirements have made this exchanger less popular in food industries .
Freezing slows down the physiochemical and biochemical reactions by forming ice from water below freezing temperature and thus inhibits the growth of deteriorative and pathogenic microorganisms in foods [82, 83]. It reduces the amount of liquid water in the food items and diminishes water activity . Heat transfer during freezing of a food item involves a complex situation of simultaneous phase transition and alteration of thermal properties . Nucleation and growth are two basic sequential processes of freezing. Nucleation means the formation of ice crystal, which is followed by ‘growth’ process that indicates the subsequent increase in crystal size .
Freezing time Freezing time is defined as the time required to lower the initial temperature of a product to a given temperature at its thermal center. In general, slow freezing of food tissues results in the formation of larger ice crystals in the extracellular spaces, while rapid freezing produces small ice crystals distributed throughout the tissue . The International Institute of Refrigeration (1986) defines various factors of freezing time in relation to the food products and freezing equipment. Dimensions and shapes of the product, initial and final temperature, temperature of refrigerating medium, surface heat transfer coefficient of the product, and change in enthalpy and thermal conductivity of the product are the most important factors among them .
Different quick freezing techniques (fishery products) 
Contact plate freezing
Low capital investment
Economic to construct and operate
High capital costs
Low operating cost
Higher operating cost
Higher operating cost
Controlled heat transfer
Efficient heat transfer
Efficient heat transfer
Generally bulk freezing
Required floor space
Reasonably good product quality
Good product quality
Superior product quality
In chilling process, the temperature of foods is maintained between −1 and 8 °C. Chilling process reduces the initial temperature of the products and maintains the final temperature of products for a prolonged period of time . It is used to reduce the rate of biochemical and microbiological changes and also to extend shelf life of fresh and processed foods . In practice, freezing process is often referred to chilling, when cooling is conducted at <15 °C . Partial freezing is applied to extend the shelf life of fresh food items in modern food industries. This process reduces ice formation in foods, known as super chilling .
Chilling methods of solid and liquid foods 
Batch air chillers
Warm food items are fed into large refrigerated room, widely used in industry
This cost-effective, hygienic, and widely used method incurs little damage to equipment. Surface dehydration of the food is the major disadvantage of this process
Ice/ice water chilling
Food items are packed in boxes and then they are placed between layers of crushed ice. Melting ice assists to maintain the temperature at 0 °C. However, this method is not labor efficient and consumes much time comparing to other processes
This method involves the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze the product. Thermal shock confrontation of food items makes this process vulnerable
A cost-effective cooling method is suitable for small products. This technique involves immersing or spraying the product in cool water at near 0 °C. Hydrocooling moisturizes food items which can be detrimental to some extents
Batch cooling of liquids
A jacketed stainless steel vessel of varying capacity with agitator inside is usually used for this type of chilling. The coolant may circulate through the jacket of the vessel or through a coil placed in the liquid food stuff, or both while the agitator incurs uniform heat transfer
Continuous cooling of liquids
The continuous cooling of liquids can involve multi-plates and tubes, aeration, and double-pipe coolers. The most widespread piece of equipment is the multi-plate cooler, which has the best efficiency, high surface area for exchanging heat, easy cleaning opportunity, and less material requirement than others
Advantages and disadvantages of chilling Chilling storage is extensively used for its effective short-term preservation competency. Chilling retards the growth of microorganisms and prevents post-harvest metabolic activities of intact plant tissues and post-slaughter metabolic activities of animal tissues. It also impedes deteriorative chemical reactions, which include enzyme-catalyzed oxidative browning, oxidation of lipids, and chemical changes associated with color degradation. It also slows down autolysis of fish, causes loss of nutritive value of foods, and finally bares moisture loss . Chilling is high capital intensive since this process requires specialized equipment and structural modifications. Chilling may reduce crispiness of selected food items . Chilling process also dehydrates unwrapped food surfaces, which is a major limitation of chilling process .
Food irradiation technologies 
Accelerated electrons, typically 5–10 MeV
Induced by impingement of electron beam onto a metal plate. Conversion efficiency is 5–10%
Radioactive decay of Co-60 (2.5 MeV) or Cs-137 (0.51 MeV)
6–8 cm, suitable for relatively thin or low-density products
30–40 cm, suitable for all products
30–40 cm, suitable for all products
Shielding for operator
>2 m concrete or 0.7 m steel/iron/lead
>2 m concrete or ~0.7 m steel/iron/lead
>5 m water or > 2 m concrete or 0.7 m steel/iron/lead
Regulatory limits for food irradiation applications 
Type of dose
Low dose (up to 1 kGy)
Inhibition of sprouting
Potatoes, onions, garlic, root ginger, yam, etc.
Insect disinfestation and parasite disinfection
Cereals and pulses, fresh and dried fruits, dried fish and meat, fresh pork, etc.
Delay of physiological processes (e.g., ripening)
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Medium dose (1–10 kGy)
Extension of shelf life
Fresh fish, strawberries, mushrooms, etc.
Elimination of spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms
Fresh and frozen seafood, raw or frozen poultry and meat, etc.
Effect on food properties
Grapes (increasing juice yield), dehydrated vegetables (reduced cooking time), etc.
High dose (10–50 kGy)
Industrial sterilization (in combination with mild heat)
Meat, poultry, seafood, prepared foods, sterilized hospital diets
Decontamination of certain food additives and ingredients
Spices, enzyme preparations, natural gum, etc.
Effects of Irradiation The nutritional parameters, such as lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and most vitamins, remain unaffected by IR even at high doses . At a high dose, IR may cause the loss of some micronutrients, most notably vitamins A, B1, C, and E. According to FDA, IR has effects on food nutritive value that is similar to those of conventional food processing techniques .
High-pressure food preservation
High hydrostatic pressure or ultra-high pressure processing (HPP) technology involves pressure attribution up to 900 MPa to kill microorganisms in foods. This process also inactivates spoilage of foods, delays the onset of chemical and enzymatic deteriorative processes, and retains the important physical and physiochemical characteristics of foods. HHP has the potential to serve as an important preservation method without degrading vitamins, flavors, and color molecules during the process [58, 103, 104]. Freshness and improved taste with high nutritional value are the peerless characteristics of HPP technology. This process is also environmental friendly, since energy consumption is very low and minimal effluents are required to discharge [105, 106]. The major drawback of this technology is the high capital cost. In addition, limited information and skepticism about this technology also limit the wide application of HPP processes [58, 78, 105].
Advantages and disadvantages of in-container processing and bulk processing 
Applicable to all solid and liquid food
Complex materials handling
Simple materials handling
Only suitable for pumpable foods
Minimal risk of post-processing contamination
Little flexibility in choice of container
Greater flexibility in choice of container
Aseptic filling of containers required potential post-processing contamination
Major development needed for high-pressure processing
Greater dead time in use of pressure vessel
Maximum efficiency in use of high-pressure vessel volume
All pressure components in contact with food must have aseptic food design and be suitable for cleaning in place and sterilizing in place
Minimum vessel dead time (no opening/closing of vessel needed, faster loading/unloading)
Pulsed electric field
Pulsed electric field (PEF) food processing is defined as a technique in which food is placed between two electrodes and exposed to a pulsed high voltage field (20–40 kV/cm). Generally, the PEF treatment time is less than one second . Low processing temperature and short residence time of this process allow a highly effective inactivation of microorganisms . PEF processing is much effective to destroy gram-negative bacteria than gram-positive bacteria. Vegetative cells are much sensitive than spores to this process. All cell deaths occur due to the disruption of cell membrane function and electroporation . PEF technology retains taste, flavor, and color of the foods. Furthermore, this technique is not toxic . However, this process has no impact on enzymes and spores. It is also not suitable for conductive materials and only effective to treat liquid foods. This process is energy extensive and may possess environmental risks [72, 109].
Preservation of liquid foods Nonthermal food preservation processes, such as HPP and PEF, are reported to be more effective than thermal processing [110–112]. Microbial inactivation achieved by PEF mainly depends on electric field strength (20–40 kV/cm) and number of pulses produced during processing . It has been found that most of the spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms are sensitive to PEF. However, it is noted that treatment of plant or animal cells require a high field strength and higher energy input, which increases the processing cost. In addition, this kind of field strength may destroy the structure of solid food. Therefore, PEF is more favorable to preserve liquid foods. Microbial inactivation by PEF has been found effective for fruit or vegetable juices, milk, liquid egg, and nutrient broth .
Electric field strength (kV/cm)
Number of pulses
Duration of pulses (μs)
Temperature of product (°C)
Log reduction (D)
Shelf life extended from 3–7 days
Biological process: fermentation
Fermentation method uses microorganisms to preserve food. This method involves decomposition of carbohydrates with the action of microorganisms and/or the enzymes . Bacteria, yeasts, and molds are the most common groups of microorganisms involved in fermentation of a wide range of food items, such as dairy products, cereal-based foods, and meat products [114, 115]. Fermentation enhances nutritional value, healthfulness, and digestibility of foods. This is a healthy alternative of many toxic chemical preservatives .
Classification of fermentation Fermentation can be spontaneous or induced. There are different types of fermentation used in food processing. Mechanisms of different food fermentation techniques are briefly discussed below:
Lactic acid fermentation takes place due to the presence of two types of bacteria: homofermenters and heterofermenters. Homofermenters produce mainly lactic acid, via the glycolytic (Embden–Meyerhof pathway). Heterofermenters produce lactic acid plus appreciable amounts of ethanol, acetate, and carbon dioxide, via the 6-phosphogluconate/phosphoketolase pathway .
Microorganisms used in food processing and flavor compounds produced 
Flavor compounds produced
Lactic acid, diacetyl, small amounts of acetaldehyde
Acetaldehyde and diacetyl acetoin
Alcoholic fermented milk
Ethanol acetoin and diacetyl
Mixed cultures of
Acetate and small amounts of short-chain fatty acids
Aldehydes including pentanal
Organic acids, alkyl phenols, and pyrazines
Fatty acids and aromatic acids
Food preservation using chemical reagents is one of the ancient and traditional methods . Effectiveness of this method depends on the concentration and selectivity of the chemical reagents, spoilage-causing organisms, and the physical and chemical characteristics of food items . The global consumption and application of food additives and preservatives are extending. At present (2012 data), North America dominated the food preservative market followed by Asia–Pacific. It is expected that the food preservative market will reach to a volume of $2.7 billion by the end of 2018 . However, using chemical reagents as food additives and preservatives is a sensitive issue because of health concerns . In different countries, the applications chemical preservatives and food additives are monitored and regulated by different acts, rules, and government authorities [119, 123, 124].
Preservatives are defined as the substances capable of inhibiting, retarding, or arresting the growth of microorganisms or any other deterioration resulting from their presence . Food preservatives extend the shelf life of certain food products. Preservatives retard degradation caused by microorganisms and therefore maintain the color, texture, and flavor of the food item .
Some types of natural preservatives 
Example of food items
Salt and sugar draw the water out of microorganisms and retard the growth of microorganisms
Vinegar provides an acidic condition which creates an unfavorable condition for microorganisms
Mayonnaise, margarine, oils and fats, etc.
Rosemary extracts work as antioxidant
Inhibit the growth of undesirable microorganisms (fungi, bacteria, yeast)
Inhibit atmospheric oxidation. Mainly used for the products that contains unsaturated fatty acids, oils, and lipids
Prevent natural ripening process and oxidative deterioration of food by inhibiting the bacteria, parasite, fungi
Creates unfavorable environment for microorganisms by reducing moisture content and increasing acidity
Oxidation of unsaturated fats produces free radicals which can start chain reactions. In this reaction, aldehyde and ketones are produced which results in the rancid taste of foods. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates and inhibit other oxidation reactions
Blocks enzymatic processes in the food that continue to metabolize after harvest. Metal chelating agents can remove the metal cofactors that many enzymes need
Sorbic acid (2,4-hexadienoic acid) and potassium sorbet for the preservation of cheese, bakery products, vegetable-based products, dried fruits, beverages, and other products as well as smoked fish, margarine, salad cream, and mayonnaises.
Butylated hydroxyl anisole, (BHA) for the preservation of butter, lard, meats, beer, baked goods, snacks, potato chips, nut products, dry mix for beverages
Citric acid for the preservation of foods, beverages, dairy products, and pharmaceuticals
Benzoic acid and sodium benzoate for the preservation of mayonnaises, pickled vegetables, fruit preparation and fruit based drinks, dessert sauces and syrups
Butylated hydroxyl toluene (BHT) in fats and oils processing
EDTA (ethylenediamine tetra acetic acid) in food processing
Lactic acid for the preservation of meats
Sulfites for the preservation of beer, wines, dried foods
Polyphosphates for the preservation of fresh peeled fruits and vegetables
Parabens (esters of para-hydroxy benzoic acid) for the preservation of dried meat products, cereal and potato based snacks and confectionary
Vitamin E for the preservation off fruits and vegetables
Polyphosphates for the preservation of fresh peeled fruits and vegetables
Nitrite (sodium nitrate) for the preservation of meat
Gallates in fats and oils processing
Sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite for the preservation of dried fruits, certain fruit juices, potatoes, and wines
Ascorbyl palmitate for the preservation of sausages and chicken broths
Some types of food additives 
Type of additive
Emulsifiers, stabilizers and thickeners
Impart a consistent texture to products; prevent separation of food
Enable products such as table salt to flow freely
Enrichment (replacement of nutrients lost during processing) and fortification (adding to the nutritional value of foods)
Folic acid, beta carotene, vitamin D, iron, iodine, etc.
Retard spoiling, prevent fats and oils from becoming rancid, prevent fresh food from turning brown
Nitrates, parabens, BHA, BHT, etc.
Cause bread and baked goods to rise during baking
Enhance flavor of foods
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Add sweetness with or without extra calories
Impart color to foods
Impart texture and creamy ‘mouth feel’ to food
Possible health effects of food additives and preservatives
Possible negative effects
Sodium benzoate (E211)
Carbonated drinks, pickles, sauces, certain medicines (even some ‘natural and homeopathic’ medications for kids)
Aggravates asthma and suspected to be a neurotoxin and carcinogen, may cause fetal abnormalities. Worsens hyperactivity
Sulfur dioxide (E220)
Carbonated drinks, dried fruit juices, cordials, potato products
May induce gastric irritation, nausea, diarrhea, asthma attacks and skin rashes. Destroys vitamin B1. Causes fetal abnormalities and DNA damage in animals
Preservative and antioxidant
May provoke life-threatening asthma
Potassium nitrate (E249)
Cured meats and canned meat products
May lower oxygen carrying capacity of blood; may combine with other substances to form nitrosamines that are carcinogens
P-hydroxy benzoic acid esters (parabens)
Preserved foods and pharmaceuticals
These compounds exert a weak estrogenic activity. Butyl paraben adversely affects the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system
Lactic acid bacteria
Listeria monocytogenes may grow in raw milk, meat, and vegetables during fermentation process. This pathogen is responsible for causing foodborne illness
Mono sodium glutamate (MSG)
All frozen foods, canned tuna and vegetables
Eating too much MSG can cause general weakness, flushing, heart palpitations, or numbness
Used as a low-calorie sweetener in gum, drinks, pudding, and yogurt
It may cause allergy and migraine headache
Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate
Processed meats and fish to retain red color and avoid botulism
Consuming high amount of bacon, hot-dog, sausage containing nitrites or nitrates may cause type-1 diabetes. The risk is too prominent for pregnant women and children. These salts may also cause irritation to digestive system including mouth, esophagus, and stomach
Deep processed fast foods and certain processed foods
Increase cholesterol level and the risk of heart attack. Contribute to increased inflammation, diabetes, and obesity problems
Sodium sulfite (E221)
Used in wine making and other processed foods
Increase the risk of asthma and in extreme case may cause cardiac arrest
White flour, bread, and rolls
This salt is considered as carcinogenic and its presence in bread may cause harmful effects to human
Propyl gallate and tertiary butyl hydroquinone
Processed foods, vegetable oils and meat products
Low doses of propyl gallate can increase the risk of cancer, whereas tertiary butyl hydroquinone increases the incidence of tumors
Food processing industries hold a dominating position in global economy. The processed food market is undergoing constant growth due to technological advancements, increasing demand, and the taste and behavioral pattern of consumers. Both developed and developing countries are opting new food processing and distribution methods responding to this progress [142–144].
Contribution of different regions in global processed fruit and vegetable production 
South East Asia
India and Central Asia
Africa and Middle East
Global vegetable and food processing industries are expected to face fierce competition from substitute foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables;
Technological change will be relatively minimal and focused on improving processing efficiency; and
Industry product categories will be well defined with relatively minimal product innovation.
The chilled food market has been showing an upward trend throughout the world, and it reached to a size of 57 billion kilograms in 2015 worth of 11.4 billion euros . Chilled food products include chilled fish/seafood, chilled pizza, chilled ready meals, chilled fresh pasta, sandwiches, salads, chilled meat products, and deli food which includes cured, fermented, and cooked meals . The UK chilled food market had a growth rate of 3.6% in 2014 and expected to grow more than 15% over the next five years . The US frozen food market revenue is expected to reach 70 billion USD by the end of 2024 .
Milk and alcoholic beverages mostly constitute pasteurized food market . Presently, almost all the countries consume pasteurized liquid milk. Pasteurized milk constitutes 70% of global liquid milk market .
The world beverage market is expected to have an annual growth rate of 1.5% in 2015 . In USA, the total beverage industry was more than USD $1.2 trillion . Asia’s beverage market is expected to experience unprecedented growth as well by taking two-thirds of global incremental consumption by 2021. China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam are among the key growing markets, and in a whole Asia is predicted to take 47.2% share of global beverage market in 2021 .
USA and Europe hold the major share in sterilized food market. However, the Asian market is also expected to show satisfactory growth in the upcoming years. The global sterilization market was valued at $3.1 billion in 2012 and is forecast to reach $4.2 billion by 2017 at a compound annual growth rate of 6.1% .
One of the major revolutionary inventions of human civilization was acquiring the knowledge to preserve foods as it was the precondition to man to settle down in one place and to develop a society. However, increasing shelf lives of food items without compromising original food properties is still critical and challenging. Food is an organic perishable substance, which is susceptible to spoilage due to microbial, chemical, or physical activities. Different traditional techniques, such as drying, chilling, freezing, and fermentation, had been evolved in the past to preserve foods and to maintain their nutrition value and texture. With time and growing demands, preservation techniques have been improved and modernized. Irradiation, high-pressure food preservation, and pulsed electric field effect are the latest innovations used to increase shelf life of foods. Different chemical reagents have also been introduced as food additives and preservatives. However, there are growing concerns of using chemical additives and preservatives in food items because of possible health hazards.
To meet the growing demand of consumers, food preservation and processing sector has been expanding in a rapid manner. To ensure food safety and long shelf life of foods, it is important to understand food spoilage mechanisms and food preservation techniques. This review has compiled and discussed different food categories, different food spoilage mechanisms, and mechanisms and applications of traditional and advanced food preservation techniques. This article will be useful for the professionals and researchers working on food processing and food safety to develop effective and integrated methods to preserve foods.
SKA and MMU carried out a major part of the literature review and drafted the manuscript. RR and SMRI carried out literature review for selected sections and helped to revise the manuscript. MSK conceived the study, supervised the research project, coauthored and supervised manuscript preparation, and helped to finalize the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
This research was supported by BCEF Academic Research Fund and CASR Research Fund, BUET. The research and manuscript are free of conflict of interest.
Sadat Kamal Amit and Md. Mezbah Uddin are equally first author.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Consent for publication
The authors confirm that the content of the manuscript has not been published, or submitted for publication elsewhere.
Ethical approval and consent to participate
Research and manuscript are original and unpublished. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
This research was supported by BCEF Academic Research Fund and CASR Research Fund, BUET.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
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