Chemical Reactions

Another major cause of food deterioration is chemical reactions. Chemical reactions in foods are sometimes very complex and subtle. Chemical reactions, excluding the action of enzymes, are responsible for such diverse deteriorative changes as oxidation, color changes, reactions between a food container and its contents, and the coagulation of proteins.

a. Temperature. We know the rate of deterioration will be significantly influenced by temperature. We can borrow a rule of chemistry (van't Hoff's rule) to estimate the rate at which the deterioration change will take place. In essence, the rule states that for every 18°F (10°C) increase in temperature, the rate of a chemical reaction doubles. This rule will suffice for our purposes when we apply it to chemical reactions occurring in foods. Using this general rule, we can say that for every 18°F (10°C) increase in storage temperature of a food, the shelf life of the food will be reduced by one half, for the deteriorative chemical reaction rate will have doubled.

b. Other Causes of Chemical Reactions. There are many reactions which can lead to the deterioration of food quality or impairment of food safety. Each reaction can involve different reactants or substrates, depending on the specific food and the particular conditions for processing or storage of that food.

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