From raw materials to consumer

Food processing can be regarded as the conversion of raw agricultural material into a form suitable for eating. The first step is collecting or harvesting the raw material. This is primarily carried out by the producer. The time of harvesting is influenced by the ultimate purpose of the raw material; quality and ripeness are important for the efficiency and result of food processing. The raw material is transported as rapidly as possible to the site of manufacturing or to the shop so that there is as little deterioration as possible.

The next step is often separating the actual foodstuff from the bulky and indigestible material. The extraction of fats and oils, sugar, flour and starch, vitamins or natural colors and flavors are examples of this step. These refining processes are carried out almost exclusively on an industrial scale.

In the next step from raw materials to consumer, the raw materials and purified components are converted to palatable food products. A diet of fruit, milk, eggs, vegetables, grains, and meat in their raw state can meet all our physiological needs, but they

Figure 1.1 Food: from raw material to consumer.

can also be made into a wide range of tasteful and appetizing food products, which make eating them a much greater pleasure.

Traditionally, most of the food is prepared at home. The majority of modern consumers prefer to buy pretreated food which is easily stored and prepared at home. Changes in society, such as more women working away from home, falling birth rate, aging of the population, in combination with familiarity with foreign cultures, influence the modern food supply. Recently, food products with special characteristics, desirable from a nutritional or social point of view, have been developed. These include products containing less saturated and more unsaturated fat, fewer calories, less cholesterol, and more dietary fiber. In general, the food processing industry appears to be willing to gratify the consumer's wishes.

The pathway from raw material to consumer is summarized in Figure 1.1. It shows the various processing techniques that are applied, the reactions that take place, and the quality characteristics that are important.

Part 1A deals with the effects of origin, processing, manufacturing, storage, transport, and preparation of food on the toxicological risks associated with the intake of food, including the formation of hazardous products and the adverse interactions with nutrients.

Since substances of natural origin are not always harmless and the toxicological risks associated with the use of man-made products such as additives have been estimated to be minimal, the four categories of food components are discussed in the following order: natural toxins (including microbial toxins, Chapter 2) and naturally occurring antinutritives (Chapter 3), contaminants (Chapter 4), food additives and the rationale for their use (Chapter 5), and nutrients (Chapter 6). The latter are discussed with the emphasis on the effects of processing on their nature and contents.

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