Whether you are making fresh blueberry pancakes for your kids on Sunday morning or a nutrient-rich superfood smoothie to start out your hectic work week, frozen fruit can be a simple way to ensure that your produce is fresh and ready to use in any dish!
However, this convenient ingredient seems to have a lot of media attention in recent years surrounding its safety of consumers.
This leads many to question, can you eat frozen fruit without defrosting? We have the berry interesting details!
If you take the time to properly prepare fresh fruit and then freeze it, you can safely eat it without defrosting. Conversely, consumers need to wash and microwave their frozen fruit that they purchase in a store before eating. This will prevent the presence of any dangerous bacteria like Norovirus or Hepatitis A. Unfortunately, it will also thaw out the products.
Therefore, conduct these steps immediately after purchase and then pop the produce back in the freezer!
Frozen Fruit Preparation
Fruits are an essential part of your daily diet, but unfortunately, they tend to spoil quite easily, even in the freezer. This means that they require special treatments to prevent this from occurring.
According to food experts at the University of Minnesota, “fresh produce contains chemical compounds called enzymes, which cause the loss of color, loss of nutrients, flavor changes, and color changes in frozen fruits and vegetables.”
Therefore, manufacturers take freshly picked, firm fruit that is at the peak of ripeness and proceed to wash and prepare it, just as you would for a fruit salad.
Then, the “enzymes in frozen fruit are controlled by using chemical compounds that interfere with deteriorative chemical reactions. The most common control chemical is ascorbic acid (vitamin C).”
Additionally, “air exposure can cause frozen products to develop rancid oxidative flavors.” Moisture-vapor proof containers prevent this problem.
Manufacturers usually use rigid plastics, but when preparing frozen fruits at home, glass and metal containers can also be effective.
Eliminating Dangerous Bacteria
Just like their vegetable counterparts, fruit is highly susceptible to bacteria. Producers rinse the products before treating and freezing them.
However, when washed mass quantities, some pieces are missed. Thus, there is still a high prevalence of dangerous microorganisms such as Norovirus, the Hepatitis A virus, E. Coli and Listeria.
These foodborne illnesses can cause extreme health issues and even fatal infections for those more susceptible members of society — expecting mothers, children, the eldery and those with weakened immune systems.
This is why it is imperative that you remain proactive before consuming foods that are more prone to having these types of bacteria lurking on their surfaces.
Safe Practices For Handling And Consuming Frozen Fruit
The first step in ensuring food safety is making sure that the freezer space remains at a constant temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Packing the freezer will also do you no favors. Thus, make sure that there is ample airflow around the packaging to allow the food to stay fresh. Aim for three quarters of the way full for optimal cooling.
While some experts will note that it can last longer, the texture, flavors and coloring will begin to degrade after longer periods.
Unfortunately, research sources have found that “freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes — bacteria, yeasts and molds — present in food.
Once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to levels that can lead to foodborne illness.”
This means that you should never eat frozen fruit without taking further measures to remove bacteria, meaning that some defrosting will occur.
Wash Your Fruit & Hands
Just like the fresh varieties, it is imperative that you wash your frozen fruit.
Researchers at NC State University have found that “vigorously rinsing the produce under running water is the most effective way of removing the microbes that cause foodborne illnesses”. In fact, this can remove up to 99% of dangerous bacteria!
It also removes dirt and pesticide residue that may still be lurking on the fruit’s skin. These chemicals can have extremely detrimental long term health impacts, making this step even more important.
This will play a part in the defrosting of the produce, but it will also make the frozen fruit much safer to eat.
Also remember to wash your hands prior to handling any food product. Even if you are careful, bacteria can be lurking.
Studies show that “hand washing is vital in preventing contamination of food by food handlers”. Just twenty seconds with warm water is all you need to remove dangerous bacteria.
Microwave Your Fruit
Another method for decontamination of your fruit is to microwave it. Obviously, this process will simultaneously defrost your frozen fruit. It will also kill any foodborne illnesses before you eat it.
The goal should be to heat it to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty seconds.
For those worried about the preservation of essential vitamins and minerals that may be lost in this cooking method, the good news is that “the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are not as easily lost in the water during the cooking process. […]
The nutrients of most concern when microwaving are the water soluble vitamins: vitamin C and the B vitamins.”
However, it is important to note how these supplements are normally degraded.
“These vitamins are lost more easily during the cooking process, because they easily move into the cooking water.”
When microwaving fruits, there is no added cooking water. Therefore, this will not factor into any loss.
In fact, “a review in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found higher retention values of water-soluble vitamins in foods that were prepared in the microwave, steamed, or stir-fried.”
Do NOT put the microwave on the ‘defrost’ setting. This lowers the power by up to 50%, in turn, decreasing the heat that is applied to the food. Essentially, a microwave cooks foods from the outside in. Therefore, without a high enough amount of heat, the internal bacteria can survive.
For those who were hoping to pop frozen berries into a smoothie, on top of ice cream or in frozen yogurt, take the time to microwave the berries at least thirty minutes before consumption.
This will obviously thaw them out. Thus, place them in the refrigerator or back in the freezer to cool them back down again!
Eat Frozen Fruit Without Defrosting By Making It At Home
“108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States” every single year. Freezing fruit is a fantastic way to cut down on this substantial loss.
Best of all, you can take the recommended precautions before you freeze the fruit pieces to allow you to eat your frozen fruit without defrosting it first!
Simple Steps For Success
First, wash your hands and ensure that your prep area is clean. Second, select firm, ripe fruits.
Those that are past their prime will not last long in the freezer so avoid those options.
Remove Bacteria And Debris
You need to thoroughly wash your fruit. Dr. Georgia C. Lauritzen with the Nutrition & Food Sciences Department at Utah State University advises that you “wash small lots at a time, and lift the fruit out of the water, rather than pour the water off the fruit. [Following this step,] peel, trim, pit and slice the fruit in the same way as for serving.”
For those wanting to take an extra step, microwave small amounts of the prepared fruit for thirty seconds at a time. Then, lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.
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Next, if you want to avoid the fruits darkening in the freezer, you should apply ascorbic acid. “This is very effective in preserving color and flavor of fruit, and adds nutritive value.
Ascorbic acid in crystalline or powdered form is available at pharmacies. One teaspoon weighs about 3 grams. Dissolve ascorbic acid in a little cold water. Add to syrup or sprinkle over fruit and mix carefully.”
This step is especially important for fruits like bananas, peaches, sweet cherries and applesauce that brown easily.
Conversely, fruits like apples, sour cherries, pears, pomegranates and strawberries need to be sugar packed or syrup packed to stay at peak freshness.
Lastly, when freezing grapes, plums, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, they can go through the same syrup and sugar packing process or they can be frozen dry.
Freeze And Pack
Finally, let the items fully freeze on the lined trays. Once frozen, remove and pack in moisture-vapor proof containers or vacuum seal bags.
Remember that the goal is to cut off the air supply, which will expedite the oxidation of the frozen fruit. Again, no matter what type of fruit, it is best to use within eight months to a year.
Additionally, the USDA recommends that you “avoid leaving cut, peeled and cooked fruit and vegetables at room temperature for more than two hours”. Therefore, once you allow the frozen fruit to thaw, eat it promptly.
The best way to avoid food poisoning is to be proactive about your food preparation. Taking the time to wash your fruit is a spectacular step that can keep you and your family safe.
Moreover, staying on top of your children’s vaccination schedules can also aid in protecting against dangerous illnesses, such as Hepatitis A.
While rare, if they were to eat a piece of affected fruit, they would likely be immune.
Heidi is a wife, mother, Newfie owner, writer and Meteorologist. She was born and raised in Texas and has worked in the broadcast industry for over a decade.