Food processing

What is food processing?

Food processing turns simple ingredients into the wide variety of foods and drinks we enjoy today. The process takes raw food, like a tomato, and changes it by adding other ingredients, cooking, freezing, blending, chopping, or packaging it.

Processing grains

Many foods cannot be eaten in their raw form, like wheat.

Wheat comes from a group of cereal grasses that are grown to produce grains. Other types of grain include oats, barley, rye and maize. Wheat is a very popular grain because it can be ground to make flour, which is the main ingredient in many different foods.

Grains can be found in a wide variety of foods from bread and pasta to breakfast cereals. Some grains are even grown for feeding farm animals whose meat we eat.

Wheat field

Wheat comes from a group of cereal grasses that are grown to produce grains.

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Benefits of food processing

Food processing has many benefits:

  • Raw fresh food can be transformed to make them last longer, like sun dried tomatoes.
  • Foods can be mixed to make lots of exciting options. For example, maize can be processed to make corn flakes and tortilla chips.
  • We have access to an amazing variety of foods from all over the world because they can be preserved and packaged for transport.
  • Some processing just makes food safe for us to eat. For example milk is pasteurised to kill off harmful bacteria.
  • Some fruit and vegetables can be frozen to preserve vitamins and other nutrients. For example, peas are frozen as soon as they are picked so that we get all the good stuff before they start to age.

Try this short quiz to check your knowledge on food processing.

Challenge

Think of one food product from the fridge, freezer or cupboard that has been processed. Why has it been processed?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Tinned foods
  • Dried foods
  • Frozen vegetables

There's more to learn...

This guide
Different tomato based products for BBC Bitesize Food Processing guide.

Food processing