People are always trying to make their lives easier by inventing new appliances. Many of them are considered to be revolutionary as they make doing chores much easier and faster. Now it is almost impossible to imagine our life without a dishwashing machine, a pressure cooker, a blender and many other home appliances. A vacuum sealer is on this list as well, helping people to store foods for longer periods of time and claiming that by removing oxygen foods are preserved from mold and fungi.
However, there are certain types of bacteria that prefer low oxygen environment and they can grow even on vacuum sealed foods. Botulism and Listeria monocytogenes are examples that can grow and thrive in an anaerobic environment causing food borne illnesses. They can also grow even faster in vacuum sealed food because there is no competition with other bacteria. If the foods were not packaged under vacuum the oxygen will protect food from C. botulinum growth and development, but since there’s almost no air nothing prevents these types of bacteria from thriving. Under refrigerated conditions extended shelf life could allow slow growing bacteria to reach high numbers. These types of bacteria do not produce noticeable changes in food as opposed to spoilage bacteria that normally spoils the food in a noticeable way (odor, color, sliminess, etc.).
If you prepare your food in a clean uncontaminated environment, there is nothing to worry about, but if you want to make sure that your food is safe after vacuum sealing follow the following guidelines:
• Wash your hands before and during the vacuum sealing process.
• It’s better not to touch food with your hands at all. Use clean sanitized spoons, tongs or other kitchen utensils to handle the food.
• Keep utensils, cutting boards and working surfaces clean and sanitized.
• Store vacuum sealed foods in the refrigerator or freezer. Dry products, such as pasta or rice can be kept at room temperature.
• Keep the package with thawing food open to minimize bacterial growth. If the package stays closed there is still a vacuum environment where pathogenic bacteria can be active.
• Make sure you don’t cross contaminate food.
• Label the sealed packages with type of food and date packaged.
• Always make sure that the seal is complete and no air will be coming into the bag.
• Don’t throw away the manual: it has important information concerning shelf life of vacuum packaged foods. Always keep that in mind and check your freezer periodically to make sure there is nothing too old.
• Any food showing signs of spoilage should be discarded immediately.
Vacuum sealing foods is an effective way to store your foods fresh and prolong their shelf life, but remember that removing air from the package doesn’t just solve some food storage problems – it could also bring others. Just make sure you are taking proper steps in handling and storing your food to reduce bacteria.