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It's time that we tell the good news about frozen vegetables.

We in the frozen food industry need to work harder to counter the public's misconception that raw produce is better than frozen vegetables.

It's a problem that was confirmed last year by a Gallup poll. And those who sell raw produce are reinforcing the misconception through their advertising and publicity efforts.

Here are the facts: Frozen vegetables often taste better, offer superior nutrition, are easier and quicker to prepare, provide consistent quality, are more economical because there is no waste, can be purchased year-round and sometimes even cost less than raw produce.

Poll Shows Americans Don't Understand Frozen Processing

Why is our good news falling on deaf ears? According to the Gallup Organization, most Americans lack a clear understanding of just how long it takes for raw produce to be harvested and brought to the supermarket. Likewise, they don't appreciate just how quickly frozen vegetables are processed.

Seventy-two percent of those polled believe it takes day a or more for vegetables to be processed and frozen. In fact, they are harvested at the peak of freshness and frozen within four to six hours, locking in their nutrients and flavor.

Not only does flash-freezing make a better product, but rigid industry standards ensure that consumers get consistent quality, no matter which package they choose or what time of year they buy.

Breeding Helps Make Frozen Vegetables Better

There are more reasons why frozen vegetables are often the better choice. Vegetables destined for freezing are bred for flavor, nutrition and immediate freezing. Raw produce can be less flavorful because it is bred to achieve uniform shape, high yields and resistance to disease.

Raw produce also is grown to withstand mechanical harvesting and long hauls -- typically up to 1,000 miles -- from field to market. In order for raw produce to arrive at the grocery store ready to eat, it is harvested early and allowed to ripen off the vine, which diminishes its flavor and nutrition value.

In the week to 10 days it takes for raw produce to be harvested, transported to market and purchased, the produce loses much of its freshness and vitamin content. As produce ages, its natural sweetness turns to starch.

Frozen Vegetables Retain Nutritional Value

According to Gallup, about 76 percent of those polled believe raw green beans have more vitamin C than frozen. But a recent study at the University of Illinois showed otherwise, that frozen green beans contain twice as much vitamin C as raw beans.

Anyone who has ever prepared raw produce knows that it has to be cleaned and trimmed and tough or spoiled sections discarded. Frozen vegetables require virtually no preparation time and involve no waste, meaning consumers get more for their money. (And while waste from home-prepared raw produce usually ends up in a landfill, byproducts from frozen packaging operations are fed to livestock, keeping them in the food chain.) Raw produce doesn't last as long in the refrigerator as frozen vegetables. And with frozen vegetables, consumers can refreeze what they don't eat.

Whereas the price of frozen vegetables largely is consistent month to month, the price of raw produce varies with seasonal availability and harvest conditions. Likewise, frozen vegetables are available year-round while raw produce can be purchased only for a limited time following the harvest.

Eating More Vegetables May Reduce Risk of Cancer

Our message recently gained a new sense of urgency. The National Cancer Institute has announced that eating more vegetables and fruits may lower the risk of diet-related cancers.

The institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation currently are promoting a program called "5 a Day for Better Health" that aims to boost per capita consumption of vegetables and fruits from the current 2.5 servings to five servings a day by the year 2000.

The institute says 35 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States may be related to diet. Vegetables and fruits help reduce the risk of cancer because they are low in fat and are rich sources of vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber.

According to the institute, 91 percent of all Americans fall short of the recommended five daily servings of vegetables and fruits, and 10 percent of U.S. adults do not eat any vegetables, fruits or fruit juices on any given day.

Why? Many people complain that vegetables either are expensive, hard to prepare, not available in fast-food restaurants or difficult to get their children to eat. It's our job to convince consumers that frozen vegetables are economical and a snap to prepare because they're already cleaned and trimmed.

Frozen Vegetables Are Practically |Fast Food'

Thanks to the microwave oven, frozen vegetables are easier and quicker to prepare than ever. Microwave ovens bring out the freshness of frozen vegetables because they require less water for cooking, eliminating soggy, overcooked vegetables.

Frozen vegetables come out of the microwave crisp, colorful and nutritious. Some frozen vegetables can simply be microwaved in the box, saving even more time by eliminating preparation steps required for conventional cooking.

With the availability of single-serve frozen vegetables, everyone can take advantage of the health benefits.

All of us need to speak up about this issue when given the opportunity. Please support your local and national trade associations in their efforts to teach the public that frozen products are every bit as good -- if not better -- than raw.

Stephen J. McCaffray President National Frozen Foods Corporation
COPYRIGHT 1992 Frozen Food Digest, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:McCaffray, Stephen J.
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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