With Summer quickly approaching, and barbeques in full swing, did you ever really think about how your favorite BBQ staples are kept safe and fresh? What would a cookout be without fresh fruit salad, crisp potato chips, fresh hotdogs, and juicy hamburgers? But as we know it takes time for the food to make it from food processing and packaging plants to our tables. So, what keeps the food fresh in the meantime? The short answer: Nitrogen.
Why food spoils
When fresh fruits and vegetable are exposed to oxygen it shortens their shelf life. Oxygen supports life, including the natural microorganisms and enzymes found in food i.e. bacteria, yeast and mold that makes food spoil. The same goes for that bag of chips that seems like it is 80% air and 20% chips. It is not oxygen in that back of chips, it is nitrogen gas, which keeps the chips from deteriorating and cushions them from breaking.
How Nitrogen keeps food fresh
Since Oxygen can cause microbe growth it’s important that food manufacturers remove oxygen from packaged foods. By displacing the ambient air (composed of roughly 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen) with nitrogen, manufacturers reduce the risk of unwanted chemical reactions, decreasing oxygen levels, and humidity levels in storage facilities. The process extends the shelf life without affecting the taste or color of the food. Nitrogen also helps produce travel further to reach people who might not have access to local fresh options.