Freezer Burn

Freezer burn is a deteriorative condition commonly found in frozen foods, especially poultry, waterfoods, and red meats. This condition is a physical change in the food item that results in no loss of wholesomeness. However, a reduction in quality of the product and a reduced serviceability does occur.

a. Abnormal Characteristics. The abnormal characteristics that are exhibited by a freezer-burned product include an abnormal color, usually white or pale amber. The surface of the product will be dry and shriveled, and usually there is a buildup of frost on the surface of the product. This texture is similar to that of a dry sponge. A dry, tasteless, stale product is the result of the deteriorative process.

b. Cause of Freezer Burn. Freezer burn is caused by the evaporation (sublimation) of moisture from the surface of the food item which results in the product having a bleached, unattractive appearance and adverse effects on the palatability.

(1) Cause of dehydration. Water vapor always seeks to go from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. In a freezer, the relative humidity is relatively low because the cold dense air is not capable of holding much moisture. However, the moisture content of the food may be from 65 to 90 percent, depending upon the type of food. This uneven concentration of moisture makes frozen foods very susceptible to moisture loss. Therefore, products which are improperly wrapped and packaged will be susceptible to dehydration. Freezer burn will result.

(2) Cause of color change. While the buildup of frost on the outside of the product is caused by the excessive loss of moisture, the color change is caused by small holes or voids formed in the item. These holes or voids cause the light to be reflected differently. Therefore, the color changes. The small holes also cause the product to be more susceptible to the oxidative process; there is an increased area of exposure to oxygen.

c. Control. Freezer burn may be prevented by a skintight covering or an ice glaze for the food product. The skintight covering may be obtained by the use of waterimpermeable films, dip coatings, or spray coatings.

d. Summary. The deteriorative process, freezer burn, may be summarized by the following.

Frozen Food + Poor Packaging + Low Relative Humidity

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