BY N. LOTHUNGBENI HUMTSOE
With an exponentially rising number of cases of COVID-19 all over the globe, strict codes of conduct have been implemented to cope with the new normal. To educate people who are struggling to fit into the new world, from buying the basic essentials for daily use, Chef Ritesh Negi, Corporate Executive Chef, Radisson MBD Group, debunk the myths around the consumption of frozen food during an interview with IANSlife.
Q. Is frozen food healthier than fresh?
Negi: Frozen food has different categories like frozen meats, frozen vegetables, and frozen ready-to-eat food. It has always been a part of our life, and we have been consuming it for a very long time. For instance, frozen green peas have been a regular part of our homely diets for generations. Trickling down from our grandmothers to our mothers, everyone has had a taste of peas in their daily diet, and we have never questioned its nutritional values. Similarly, frozen berries and Italian canned tomatoes have also been a regular in kitchens.
The point to be conveyed is that the act of freezing doesn’t make food any less healthy. The health aspect of food depends entirely on its nutritional content and how it’s preserved while being frozen. It is also imperative to weigh the composition, for instance, a cooked curry or pizza might not be able to withhold the nutritive quotient of food while frozen peas and meat will.
With tough times ahead of us and the current situation taking us off-guard, the entire game plan of the food industry is bound to witness a paradigm shift. There will be more preserved vegetables, meat, and other products in the market, which will take the lead and be utilised for daily consumption. And as a matter of fact, some of the nutritionists are observed saying how vegetables are destined to be “frozen” as they are harvested at a time when their freshness and nutritional value are at the peak of their ripeness.
Q. Does frozen food have the same nutrition as fresh?
Negi: The freezing technique guarantees the freshness of the food for a longer period, meanwhile maintaining its nutritional values. Thus, making it very safe for us to consume frozen meat which has been processed, packed, and delivered under appropriate guidelines and temperature. Vendors have been advised to pack the frozen meat and vegetables with airtight heavy-duty packagings such as foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper.
Freezing is known to increase the shelf life of the food without compromising with the nutritious components of it and freezing does not affect the calorie count, fiber content, or minerals value of the food as well. Without compromising with any of the content, including fat, protein or carbohydrates, frozen food has undoubtedly become a healthy companion of ours. However, it is recommended that while purchasing frozen products, one should look for content value with less sodium and sugar in it.
The nutrition in the frozen chicken is similar to that of the fresh-cut one where the former has to pass the quality tests to be retailed in the supermarkets. The taste of the frozen meat is subjective to its cooking style, method of preparation, and infusion of other ingredients while cooking the same. Nonetheless, one is still advised to take precautions and be conscious to check the nutritional content printed on its packaging.
Q: With the new normal of social distancing, how do you see the market value of frozen food?
Negi: CoronaVirus has created a state of chaos and has left people with fewer choices of picking essential items on a daily basis and to stock up their shelves to avoid going out of their homes. The frozen category has seen a massive surge in the same with poultry playing a vital role as an essential commodity with longer shelf life and having high nutritional value.
Moving forward I personally see frozen food will be the new kid in the block, especially frozen meats such as chicken, etc. People will be inclined towards safe branded frozen meat products which can be used for hot cooking.
Measures for people to follow to consume safely packed meat?
*Check the manufacturing and expiry date on the back of the frozen meat before buying and use it accordingly. Also, look for the FSSAI sign on it for authenticity.
*To try and avoid thawing meats with running water or microwaving them before cooking. Rather, put frozen meat in a bowl and let it thaw slowly inside the refrigerator only for a few hours. It is very important to thaw frozen meat products in the temperature-controlled zone which is at 5-degree celsius.
*Understand the significance of washing the meat thoroughly for at least 3-4 times after thawing. Suma tabs (a chlorine release agent) can also be used for the meat, with advised PPM concentration. Post using of suma tab, one more wash with freshwater is important and then it should be cooked immediately.
*Do not refrigerate thawed meat again rather consume it immediately after cooking.
*Avoid cold cuts of meats etc. which are used for making sandwiches, salads etc. This has also been advised by the experts as per the Food Safety Guidelines issued in the public interest.
The key highlight of having frozen meat, thus remains, to store it under favorable temperature and not freeze it on loop to avoid meddling with the quality. (IANS)