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[Trivia]Why are germs killed?

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Steve, May 3, 2006.

  1. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    Preserving foods in salt or sugar has been practiced for thousands of years. Although not as necessary in this modern era of refrigeration and rapid transport to market, preserved products can still be found in hams, fish, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, etc.

    Why does packing food with salt or sugar preserve and protect it from spoilage? More specifically, how do these substances work to kill the germs?
  2. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    Bacteria needs a specific environment in which to grow. Salt and sugar changes this environment and helps prevent bacteria from spreading. It should also be noted that this only delays spoilage. It doesn't prevent it.
  3. tke711

    tke711 Oink Oink Staff Member

    I don't think they kill the germs at all. Sugar and salt simply remove the water content that bacteria need to grow in the first place.
  4. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    Very close. In fact, I'll give it to you. By absorbing the water in the environment, sugar and salt (salt's more effective) disrupt the cell walls of the bacteria. It does kill them. Eventually, as Biker notes, the water absorbing abilities decline over time, so spoilage will eventually occur but it takes a long time, depending on the preservation method.

    Salt-cured and air-dryed fish can last for years and years, though you'd have to be pretty desperate to eat it!
  5. Violet1966

    Violet1966 Stand and Deliver Staff Member

    I think it has something to do with the fact that salt and sugar don't decay either when in pure form? I mean you don't get mold on sugar or salt do you? They inhibit the breading of organisms...not kill them.
  6. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    Correct. It's also why honey never goes bad. However, some bacteria produce spores that can survive in such environments. Bacterial spores that can result in botulism can survive in honey; it's why infants are supposed not to eat honey.
  7. Violet1966

    Violet1966 Stand and Deliver Staff Member

    Oh yeah I knew that about the honey and infants.
  8. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Wonderful thread and topic!
  9. Piobaireachd

    Piobaireachd Full Member

    We have also been getting pounded by mites and diseases. Our honey is very organic compared with other countries (like China), but we still have to use some pest/mitacides in our hives.

    I would be concerned about giving honey to infants for that reason as well. Adults can tolerate these chemicals much better. Besides, we don't know what some of the long term affects are in respect to development.

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