Does Freezing Kill Salmonella In The Food?

If you are a person who is more concerned about eating healthy, have you ever wondered what freezing could do to your Chicken or meat? 

We always strive to eat healthy to lead a healthy life. With the world pandemic around us, we have to be very cautious about our food. The most common question popping in everyone’s mind before freezing is, “Does freezing kill the salmonella in the food?”

Does Freezing Kill Salmonella In The Food?

What is Salmonella? Salmonella is a group of bacteria that lives in the intestinal tracts of animals, including birds. These bacteria can create a serious disease called Salmonellosis if not cooked properly. 

Salmonellosis is a disease caused by food contamination. The most common reasons for the spread of the disease are

  • Undercooked or raw meat and eggs
  • Raw fruits and vegetables contaminated by animals and birds
  • Unpasteurized milk and dairy products
  • Poor hygiene

Salmonella can grow and multiply quickly in summer when the temperature is high. This gives us the next important question. 

If the high temperature can help it grow, does freezing kill the Salmonella? The simple answer would be – No. Freezing the food does not kill the Salmonella but only keeps it in a hibernate mode. When you thaw the food again, they get activated again.

Let us learn more about what freezing can do to bacteria and viruses. We shall look into how you can kill Salmonella in your food. Let us get started.

What can we do to kill the bacteria?

Bacteria are single-celled organisms that exist all around the environment. From freshwater to the worst soil, they live everywhere. While some bacteria are harmful, a few of them are not.

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There are a lot of bacteria that exist on the fruits and animals that we consume. Before we consume them, it is crucial to make sure these bacteria are killed. These bacteria, if consumed inappropriately, may lead to serious health conditions.

Does freezing the food help kill the bacteria?

No. Freezing the food does not kill the bacteria completely. Every food that we consume has a small portion of water in it. Bacteria also contain water in its cytoplasm. When we freeze the food, the water content expands and may burst the bacteria. In another case, freezing might put the bacteria into a fixed position. 

It is very important to note that bacteria can be dormant for a longer period. Thawing the food gives them a favorable condition to grow faster.

Well, what if we freeze them fast and restore them quickly? Bacteria can go into sleep mode or remain inactive only on slow freezing.

Low temperatures can kill certain types of bacteria. But that does not assure you to consume directly without cooking. Especially, the frozen food that you purchase from the hypermarkets is frozen quickly to make it available for sale. 

The chances of active bacteria in those frozen foods are higher. Cooking the food at the appropriate temperature levels is the only way to kill all the bacteria.

Does freezing food kill the virus?

The answer is yes. Freezing can help kill the viruses in the food. The ideal conditions for freezing have to be followed to destroy them completely. Avoiding food contamination is the best practice to prevent viruses. 

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Viruses are infectious agents or parasites that exist in the living cells of animals, plants, or bacteria. They are multi-celled organisms that join hands with bacteria in causing serious foodborne diseases. Viruses are highly communicable if no proper hygiene is being followed.

In general, the food must be frozen at -20 degrees Celsius for at least one week. It is very important to know and understand the ideal freezing temperature. Most of the freezers used in households run between -17 to -12 degrees Celsius.

If you want to freeze your food to eliminate the viruses, make sure you choose the right freezer. Do not rely only on the thermostat. It is better to use a good freezer thermometer. 

Though freezing will kill most viruses, thorough cooking is required to get rid of them completely.

What does freezing do to bacteria?

Freezing does to bacteria what anesthesia does to us. When the food is frozen at a slower pace, the bacteria in the food slowly begin to sleep and become inactive. The freezing only makes the bacteria inactive but does not kill it. 

If we do a flash-freeze or a fast freeze usually done by the manufacturers, there is a risk of bacteria still being active on the food even when in the freezer.

Will it stay inactive forever? No. Like we become normal after the anesthesia loses its effect, the bacteria become active once the food is back from the freezer to its comfortable environment. Not just back to normal, but it tends to grow faster than it was before.

Thawing the food will reactivate the bacteria and enables them to multiply. Cooking them at an appropriate temperature for a longer time, irrespective of whether it was already cooked or not, can help us get rid of the bacteria.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can Salmonella survive freezing? 

Salmonella is a form of bacteria. The sad truth is yes. All the bacteria survive but remain inactive or go to hibernate mode while freezing. They come back to normal and become stronger when they are back to the favorable temperature.

What temperature will kill Salmonella? 

Salmonella exists in all kinds of poultry, including eggs. The temperature required to kill Salmonella depends on the type of meat, the fat content, and the lethality of Salmonella. 

We have given examples of approximate temperatures as are necessary for killing Salmonella under two different conditions.

Condition 1: 5% Fat at different temperatures 

Temperature (at Fahrenheit)ChickenTurkey
1502.8 Mins3.7 Mins
15547.7 Sec1.2 Mins
16014.8 Sec26.1 Sec

Condition 2: 12% Fat at different temperatures 

Temperature (at Fahrenheit)ChickenTurkey
1504.2 mins4.9 Mins
15554.4 Secs1.3 Mins
16016.9 sec26.9 Sec

Can you kill bacteria by freezing?

The bacteria in the food only stays inactive or goes into hibernate mode on freezing. It is always recommended to cook your food at the appropriate temperature to kill the bacteria. 

What temperature kills Salmonella instantly? 

Any temperature above 165 degrees Fahrenheit kills Salmonella instantly.

Final Words 

In a nutshell, freezing is the best way to stop Salmonella from growing and keep the food fresh. But always keep in mind that it only prevents it from growing but never completely kills them. They come back stronger when thawed. Cooking is always the best way to get rid of Salmonella completely. Maintaining proper hygiene helps cross-contamination.

Now that we know more about whether freezing kills Salmonella or not, let us eat healthily and maintain a healthy lifestyle.