Freezing: an underutilized food safety technology?

Int J Food Microbiol. 2004 Jan 15;90(2):127-38. doi: 10.1016/s0168-1605(03)00215-0.


Freezing is an ancient technology for preserving foods. Freezing halts the activities of spoilage microorganisms in and on foods and can preserve some microorganisms for long periods of time. Frozen foods have an excellent overall safety record. The few outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with frozen foods indicate that some, but not all human pathogens are killed by commercial freezing processes. Freezing kills microorganisms by physical and chemical effects and possibly through induced genetic changes. Research is needed to better understand the physical and chemical interactions of various food matrices with the microbial cell during freezing and holding at frozen temperatures. The literature suggests that many pathogenic microorganisms may be sublethally injured by freezing, so research should be done to determine how to prevent injured cells from resuscitating and becoming infectious. Studies on the genetics of microbial stress suggest that the induction of resistance to specific stresses may be counteracted by, for example, simple chemicals. Research is needed to better understand how resistance to the lethal effect of freezing is induced in human pathogens and means by which it can be counteracted in specific foods. Through research, it seems possible that freezing may in the future be used to reliably reduce populations of food-borne pathogens as well as to preserve foods.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • Consumer Product Safety*
  • Food Microbiology
  • Food Preservation / methods*
  • Food-Processing Industry / methods
  • Food-Processing Industry / standards
  • Freezing
  • Humans