How Safe is Frozen Produce?
Frozen fruits and vegetables can be a godsend to anyone that wants quick nutrition. With so little time in the day, being able to quickly whip up a nutrient dense smoothie allows us stay healthy without much effort at all.
Still, almost everyone prioritizes “fresh” produce. Frozen fruit is great for smoothies, but who wants to snack on frozen mango? Plus leafy greens don’t have a frozen option so you are forced to make “fresh” salads. It makes sense to buy produce fresh for the most part.
Is it time we start opting for frozen produce?
There are two big questions that need to be answered before we make a decision, and they will surprise you.
How nutritious is frozen produce?
Many people tend to write off frozen produce simple because it’s frozen. How can the frozen version be healthier than the fresh version? Well you might have been wondering why I put fresh in quotation earlier. That’s because the fresh produce at your local market isn’t as fresh as you may think. Despite being picked at ripeness or just before, produce usually travels a long way before reaching the produce section. This causes the produce to lose some nutritional value. By the time you pick up that head of broccoli it has much less nutrition than you think.
What’s more, vegetables and fruits get sprayed with chemicals to help preserve them for that trip to the store. They want produce looking like they were just picked- even when they weren’t. A good piece of advice is to wash your fruits thoroughly by hand and to soak your vegetables in salt water. This will help wash off any chemicals or microbes that are covering your produce.
Frozen produce, on the other hand, is frozen shortly after harvest. The produce is blanched before they are frozen to kill of any bacteria. Although the produce may lose some vitamin C and B, the loss is small. Compared to “fresh” produce, its frozen counterpart has more nutritional value.
How safe is frozen produce?
One might think that frozen goods will definitely be more safe than fresh. For the most part, this is true. Fresh produce is subject to a variety of problems. Bacteria can easily be introduced and outbreaks and recalls have been seen.
However, frozen produce isn’t totally safe. Focus on the safety of frozen foods has increased recently. Since last fall, the FDA has been sampling frozen berries for hepatitis A and norovirus. While these aren’t life-threatening illnesses, the results of the study should give a greater indication of the safety of frozen foods.
Two recalls have been announced recently because the berries contained parts of the hepatitis A virus. Although this is concerning, it isn’t something people should be freaking out over. No one has gotten sick from these berries and it seems it is hard to.
There haven’t been any reported deaths from frozen produce. Frozen vegetables are usually cooked so any bacteria or viruses are killed off. Although frozen fruit isn’t cooked, freezing the bacteria or virus decreases their activity and kills them slowly. Between 1997 and 2016 only 550 individuals got sick from frozen berries.
The numbers aren’t high, but there are people getting sick. However, your chance of getting sick from frozen berries is slim to none. If you are worried about getting sick then there are ways to “kill” off anything on your berries. Benjamin Chapman, a microbiologist from North Carolina State University, microwaves his berries to boiling, and then refreezes them before putting them in anything. Although it might seem extreme, he says it’s quick and ensures there are no microbes on his berries.
Overall, frozen produce can provide more nutrition compared to its fresh counterpart. Frozen produce is also very safe but if there any doubts cooking the produce will provide that extra insurance you might need. The only crux is that frozen produce is limited to certain fruits and vegetables, so for some items you will have to go with the fresh version. You can’t go wrong with either so it really comes down to preference.