Action Of Food Enzymes

A second major cause of food deterioration is the actions of food enzymes. Enzymes are organic catalysts which are produced by the cells of animals, plants, or bacteria. We know that microorganisms possess enzymes which produce fermentation, rancidity, and putrefaction of foods. Likewise, uninfected food plants and animals have their own enzyme complement, the activity of which largely survives harvest and slaughter. Cereal grains recovered after 60 years of storage have been found to still possess the properties of respiration, germination, and growth--all enzyme controlled functions. Unless these enzymes are inactivated by heat, chemicals, or some other means, they continue to catalyze chemical reactions within foods. Some of these reactions, if not allowed to go too far, are highly desirable, for example, continued ripening of tomatoes after they are picked and natural tenderizing of beef on aging. But ripening and tenderizing beyond an optimum point become food deterioration. The weakened tissues are subject to microbial infections and the deterioration reaches the point of rotting. This can happen in the field, commissary, and home refrigerator, given sufficient time.

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