INTRODUCTION TO FOOD DETERIORATION
Section I. GENERAL
a. The Department of Defense (DOD) is concerned about the quality of the
foods it procures, transports, stores, and issues. This concern is not unfounded. Of the
large quantities being handled, a substantial amount of food has to be disposed of, or
special action is taken in order to maintain quality and wholesomeness standards.
b. It is clear that all foods are perishable, regardless of the classification one
may have seen for a particular food item. Some foods become unfit for human
consumption more quickly than others. Foods are quite unlike hardware such as nuts
and bolts. Yet, modern food markets and commissaries with their processed and
preserved foods tend to give their customers the impression of similar durability for
many food items. This is where the problem begins.
c. Food, from the time it is harvested, slaughtered, or processed, is continually
undergoing deterioration. This presents a problem to DOD because food supplies have
to be purchased well in advance of anticipated usage. Large quantities of food are lost
each year due to deterioration. The problem is caused by the perishable nature of food as
well as to the length of the supply chain. Because of these factors, veterinary food
inspection specialists are tasked with recognizing deterioration in subsistence and
making recommendations to preclude public health problems and financial losses to the
Before any serious discussion of food deterioration, we need to define several
terms that are important in understanding food deterioration.
a. Food Deterioration. The first term is food deterioration. We define this term
as a series of continuous degradative changes occurring in a food item which may
affect the product's wholesomeness, result in a reduction of its quality, and/or alter its
(1) Deterioration is a continuing process that begins the moment an animal
is slaughtered or a plant is harvested and continues until the item is no longer
recognizable as a food item or is literally reduced to dust.
(2) Some of the techniques that are used to slow down the continuous
changes are freezing, drying, blanching, use of additives, and canning.