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The benefits and drawbacks of food manufacturing


The mass production and manufacture of food is much cheaper overall than individual production of meals from raw ingredients. Because of this a large profit potential exists for the manufacturers and suppliers of processed food products. While individuals may see a benefit in convenience they rarely see any direct financial cost benefit in using processed food as compared to home preparation. Poor quality ingredients and sometimes questionable processing and preservation methods can detract greatly from the overall benefit gained by individual consumers.

However this trend is changing with the focus on new key issues by food manufacturers.These keys issues include:

  • Cost Reduction-It is important to understand that profit drives most of the factors behind any industry; the food industry not least of all. Health concerns have generally been subservient to profit potential, leading the food processing industry to often ignore major health concerns raised by the use of industrially-produced ingredients (partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils, for example, a well-known and well-researched cause of heart disease that is still commonly used in processed food to increase profit margin.) Consumer pressure has led to a dramatic reduction in the use of industrially-produced ingredients in processed food, but the (often slight) potential for increased profits has barred the widespread acceptance by the industry of recognized health problems that is caused by over-consumption of processed foods.
  • Health-The reduction of fat content in final product (for example by using baking instead of deep-frying in the production of potato chips) has led to new technology being developed in the food manufacturing area.
  • Hygiene-A new focus has been on the rigorous application of industry and government endorsed standards to minimize possible risk and hazards. In the U.S. the standard adopted is HACCP.
  • Efficiency-The rising energy costs have led to increasing usage of energy-saving technologies for example: frequency converters on electrical drives, heat insulation of factory buildings and heated vessels, energy recovery systems, keeping a single fish frozen all the way from China to Switzerland.In addition factory automation systems (often Distributed control systems) reduce personnel costs and may lead to more stable production results.

While the food manufacturing industry continues to grow and change there are still many benefits of food processing.These can include: toxin removal, preservation, easing marketing and distribution tasks, and increasing food consistency. In addition, food manufacturing techniques also increase seasonal availability of many foods, enable transportation of delicate perishable foods across long distances, and make many kinds of foods safe to eat by de-activating spoilage and pathogenic micro-organisms.

Modern supermarkets would not be feasible without modern food processing and manufacturing techniques, long voyages would not be possible, and military campaigns would be significantly more difficult and costly to execute. Food processing can also add extra nutrients such as vitamins.

Despite the advances and benefits from modern food production and manufacturing there are still several drawbacks.These can include: fresh food that has not been processed other than by washing and simple kitchen preparation, may be expected to contain a higher proportion of naturally-occurring vitamins, fiber and minerals than an equivalent product processed by the food industry.

For example: Vitamin C is destroyed by heat and therefore canned fruits have a lower content of vitamin C than fresh ones. Food processing can also introduce hazards not encountered with naturally-occurring products. Processed foods often include many food additives, such as flavorings and texture-enhancing agents, which may have little or no nutritive value, or be unhealthy.

Preservatives that are added or created during processing to extend the "shelf-life" of commercially-available products, such as nitrites or sulphites, may cause adverse health effects. The use of low-cost ingredients that mimic the properties of natural ingredients (for example: cheap chemically-hardened vegetable oils in place of more-expensive natural saturated fats or cold-pressed oils) have been shown to cause severe health problems, but are still in widespread use because of cost concerns and lack of consumer knowledge about the effects of substitute ingredients.

In addition because processed food ingredients are often manufactured in high quantities and distributed widely amongst added-value food manufacturers, failures in hygiene standards in "low-level" manufacturing facilities that produce a widely-distributed basic ingredient can have serious consequences for many final products. Consequently, adequate government regulation of ingredient manufacturers is an essentially important factor for securing the production of generally-safe processed foods.

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