Properties of Water in Foods: in Relation to Quality and Stability

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Water is recognized as being an important factor in numerous pheno- mena connected with the quality of food. For instance, it plays a part in the textural properties of several commodities. Moreover, water is an essential parameter determining the behaviour of food products in the course of many processing operations : on water, will depend the amount of energy necessary for freezing or dehydrating the product; water will strongly influence the evolution of physical, chemical and biochemical phenomena taking place in the product during processing operations such as heating, drying, etc. Water will also influence the same reactions, as well as the activity of microorganisms, during the storage of food products under various conditions. As a result, all aspects of quality - sensory, nutritional and hygienic properties of the food - will be affected. In all these circumstances, the water content of a product is obviously an important factor, but equally important may be the physical properties of this water, such as its thermodynamic activity and its mobility. Actual- ly, the concept of water activity (a ) is now widely used by the food industry and in the legislation of sever')Yl countries. The idea of a small, international meeting devoted to a synthetic review and discussion of knowledge on these various matters, was first developed by Dr. R. B.