Foods and other perishable products retain their quality longer when the growth of contaminating microorganisms is prevented. This can be accomplished by physically removing or destroying microorganisms or by adding chemicals that impede their growth. Heat treatment is the most common and reliable method used, but heating can alter the flavor and appearance of food. Irradiation can be used to kill microbes without causing perceptible changes in food, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved this technology to treat only certain foods. Chemicals can prevent the growth of microorganisms, but the risk of toxicity must always be a concern. Because of this, the FDA regulates chemical additives used in food and must deem them safe for consumption.
Food-processing facilities need to keep surfaces relatively free of microorganisms to avoid contamination. Machinery used to grind meat for example, if not cleaned properly, can create an environment in which bacteria multiply, eventually contaminating large quantities of product.
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