Frozen foods

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Frozen food in a self-service freezer in a supermarket in Thailand

Frozen food ( TKK for short , also Feinfrost ) is the name for industrially produced food that is preserved using the freezing process. Frozen food includes both frozen ingredients for further processing and ready-made meals . According to German food law, the storage temperature of frozen food may not exceed −18 ° C:

"Frozen foods [...] are foods that have been subjected to a suitable freezing process (deep-freezing) in which the range of maximum crystallization is passed as quickly as necessary according to the type of food, with the effect that the temperature of the food at all its points after thermal stabilization is at least minus 18 degrees Celsius, and with an indication that they are frozen, are placed on the market. "

- § 1 Paragraph 1 of the Regulation on Frozen Food (TLMV)


The per capita consumption of frozen food in Germany tripled between 1975 and 2005 from 12.2 kg to 37.1 kg (excluding ice cream).
The per capita consumption of frozen foods in different countries in 2006 (excluding ice cream).

Already Alexander the Great was filled during the Persian war pits with ice to cool in wine and other foods. Emperor Nero used snow and ice from the mountains of the Apennines to keep fruits fresh for feasts. However, the development of refrigeration begins much later. Around 1550 the Spanish doctor Blasius Villafranka is said to have taught the cooling of water by adding saltpeter in Rome. This method was discovered by Professor Zimara in Padua as early as 1525 . Up to the year 1740 15 different mixtures were found with which temperatures down to −32 ° C could be reached. Finally, in 1844, John Garry presented his ice cream refrigerator, for which he was granted a US patent in 1851. However, its use was primarily limited to air conditioners for hospitals. Ferdinand Carré built the first absorber refrigeration machine in 1860. 400 of them were manufactured and used in merchant ships that brought meat from Australia and South America to the new industrial areas of England and the USA.

The refrigeration industry actually began in 1874 with Carl von Linde . He invented a refrigeration machine with ammonia liquefaction by compression. Until 1911, however, it was mainly used to produce artificial ice. Only then did the development of the industrial preservation of food by deep freezing begin. An observation by the biologist Clarence Birdseye (1886–1956) should make a decisive contribution to this. On a research trip to Labrador , he saw how the local population caught fish at −45 ° C, which frozen as soon as they came out of the water. Prepared later, they tasted like fresh out of the water. The practical implementation of this discovery was made possible by the Danish fish importer AJA Ottensen . He found that in a brine with a salt content of 28.9% salt and the new refrigeration machines, temperatures of −21 ° C could be achieved. This enabled him to freeze whole fish to the core of −20 ° C within one to three hours. Ottensen received a patent for his discovery in 1911. It represents the basis of the industrial production of today's frozen food.

Marketing started in America on March 6, 1930: The Birdseye company sold frozen food under the Birds Eye brand for the first time in ten grocery stores in Springfield , Massachusetts . In addition to vegetable products such as spinach, the range mainly included fruit and fish in filleted form. Fruit juices and the first semi-finished meals followed. Frozen food made its breakthrough in Germany in 1955 when it was first exhibited at Anuga . In 1957 it was found in Germany's chests for the first time: it was fish fingers and spinach. The first frozen ready-to-eat meal, the so-called "TV dinner", was developed by Gerry Thomas in the USA in the 1950s .

In memory of the sale of the first frozen food in the US market, US President proclaimed Ronald Reagan in 1984 March 6 as the frozen food day ( English National Frozen Food Day is celebrated every year since then nationwide in the United States). The German Frozen Food Institute has expanded the event in Germany to “International Frozen Food Day” and thus refers to a development in frozen food in post-war Germany that is comparable to that in the USA.


Portioned frozen cream spinach (defrosted)

The product range extends from vegetables and vegetable products such as French fries to meat and meat products, fish and fish products to complete meals ( ready-made products ). Ice cream does not fall under the term frozen food, as it does not necessarily have to be stored at a maximum of −18 ° C. Food that is frozen even in the home is called frozen food and is often stored at higher temperatures (−12 ° C).

A distinction must be made between:

  • Ready-to-use raw products: vegetables or fruit that have already been cleaned and chopped up.
  • Ready-to-cook products: like fish fingers that only need to be fried.
  • Ready-to-prepare partial dishes: creamed spinach, which you only need to defrost and heat up, or partial dishes such as fried potatoes, fish fingers.
  • Ready-to-eat products: those that are taken out of the packaging and consumed immediately, such as ice cream or ice confectionery.

Frozen food is manufactured industrially and to a large extent also by machine and reaches the consumer through various distribution channels via retailers or home delivery services. Frozen food is subject to the regulations of the Ordinance on Frozen Food (TLMV), with regard to the permitted temperature fluctuations of a maximum of three degrees Celsius during reloading processes.

Various deep-freezing processes are used for industrial freezing , depending on the type of food. Vegetables are also often blanched beforehand . Thanks to shock freezing, industrially produced frozen food has a longer shelf life than even frozen food in the domestic freezer, which works at significantly higher temperatures. In order to maintain the quality of frozen food, it is important to adhere to the frozen food chain from the producer to the time of preparation.


Scientists agree that deep-freezing is the gentlest way to preserve food. In addition, the vitamin and nutrient content of frozen products is still significantly higher even after several months than that of food that has only been stored for a few days at room temperature. However, the 80 percent of the vitamins obtained begin to break down after six months.


Various deep-freezing processes are used today for the production of frozen food . Most methods accomplish cooling in a few minutes. Inexpensive spray cooling has spread in industrial production . Here, the food (mostly meat) is sprayed with food-grade, low-temperature liquids or gas mixtures (usually nitrogen , carbon dioxide ), which quickly and gently removes heat from the refrigerated goods. The coolants evaporate again when the temperature is slightly increased by a few degrees. The cooling process is usually made possible by assembly lines.

The cooling is much faster when immersed in liquefied gases, but this is technically ineffective and is not used industrially today. There is also the classic cooling by simply storing the food in deep-freeze warehouses , which are also required as warehouses . For the storage of fresh goods, separate locks or entrance rooms are often used here, in which the temperature is lower than in the rest of the hall, in order to enable rapid freezing and not to overload the hall cooling technology.

Strict occupational health and safety regulations apply to the production of frozen food . Spray cooling in particular is life-threatening. Protective clothing is mandatory. In Germany, no locks may be installed in doors to rooms with freezer technology, unless they can be opened from the inside without any effort, regardless of the locking status, whereby the door must pop open when the mechanism is released and must not close again. For this purpose, simple, frost-proof lever locks are often installed, which, due to their own weight, allow the door to be opened from the inside with light hand pressure.


According to the German Deep Freeze Institute, around 3,312 million tons of frozen food were consumed in Germany in 2011 (40.4 kg per person). Of these, 52.5% went to the grocery trade and 47.5% to out-of-home catering. Sales totaled 11,781,626 euros. The figures are based on total sales in the grocery trade, including home delivery services and discounters, as well as bulk consumers (restaurants, canteens, institutions).

Frozen food in tons 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
vegetables 377.430 394.187 408,527 432,654 431,446 436.983 440.491 444.297 454.911 463.664 466.822 467.034 474,881 476,959
Fruit and fruit juices 61.130 59,630 64,856 66,642 60,696 60.263 62,294 64,248 66,279 66,469 67.209 66.504 66,351 68.123
Fish, crustaceans and mollusks 206.705 212,238 216.021 244.162 243.314 240,644 262601 274,600 284,456 299.902 295.239 292,404 297,248 298,828
Potato products 336,405 335.760 359,403 362.611 357,588 373.268 394.221 406.166 448,338 409,477 420,891 413.451 422.311 422.204
Cereal and flour products 13,755 15,024 13,505 13,473 12,234 13.303 13,663 13,796 14,320 14,388 14,653 14,850 14,283 14,746
Bakery products 336,665 425.992 457.340 480,081 500.170 497.071 515.506 534,537 552.797 568.219 606,338 626.099 662,462 680.229
Ready meals 328.025 348,852 383,522 437,679 462,769 385,826 392.135 397,951 404.339 406,803 410.413 418.086 415,532 423.814
Pizza 139,675 144,460 159,687 170.261 177.163 217.779 233,953 237,537 244,736 252,588 260,635 267,666 280,629 283,621
Snacks 63,290 72.012 48,875 52,981 53,387 168,421 175,078 177.731 187.719 190.325 194.265 198,302 199,489 216.137
Milk products, desserts 9,490 8,725 8,187 8,353 8,880 9,188 9.222 10,082 9,818 10.197 10,312 9,831 9,495 10,477
Meat and game 218,500 236,887 243.902 201,561 234.031 228.142 226.201 221,890 225,133 226.765 228.841 450.114 442,953 417.099
Raw poultry 331,000 329,000 324,000 342,000 307,000 315,000 307,000 285,000 245,000 227,300 226.919 228,592 223.232 206,977
All in all 2,422,070 2,582,767 2,687,825 2,812,456 2,848,678 2,945,888 3,032,365 3,067,835 3,107,846 3,136,097 3,202,537 3,224,341 3,285,634 3,312,237


Environmental aspects

Frozen food has a more negative impact on the environment than regular food due to the production of ingredients, packaging, refrigeration and transport. The specific environmental pollution of frozen lasagne ready meals was examined in a life cycle assessment . Different variants were compared. Essential aspects for the assessment are the ingredients, the type of cooling and heating in the household. From an environmental point of view, vegetarian lasagna tends to do better than meat-based lasagna because meat tends to cause higher pollution. Chilled lasagna is less stressful than frozen lasagna. Long storage in the freezer leads to particularly high loads. The use of energy efficient freezers is recommended to reduce these pressures. Preparation in the microwave uses less energy than heating in the oven . With this product, however, packaging and transport are less important for assessing environmental pollution.

Quality control

Frozen food has been subject to HACCP regulation since 1978, which defines standards for ensuring the quality and freshness of frozen food. Data loggers and time-temperature indicators are suggested as tools for quality control .

See also

Web links

Commons : Frozen Food  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Deutsches Tiefkühlinstitut e. V.
  2. ^ Fritz Timm (ed.), Karl Herrmann: Frozen foods . 2nd edition, Blackwell Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlin, 1996
  3. a b Proclamation No. 5157 Introducing the US President's Frozen Food Day Proclamation of March 6, 1984 - accessed February 12, 2015
  4. Laura Dawn Lewis: 2014 LEEP Event, Editorial & Promotional Calendar: Holidays and Observances for the US, UK, Canada, Australia & Chinese Markets, Verlag LEEP Publishing, 2013, ISBN 9781311047380 , p. 160 (Google Books)
  5. International Frozen Food Day on March 6th! ( Memento from February 15, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  6. Study by the University of Hamburg on the vitamin and nutrient content in frozen foods
  7. Nutrition and diet: vegetables and fruit in winter: frozen or canned  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / , know everything,, January 23, 2013, accessed on January 27, 2013
  8. Beef only in second place: These foods are the worst climate killers - ÖKO-TEST. Retrieved October 26, 2019 .
  9. Jürgen Rösemeier-Buhmann: These are the 6 biggest climate sinners among food. In: Sustainable Retrieved October 26, 2019 .
  10. Büsser S. and Jungbluth N. (2009) Aluminum has only a slight effect. In: alimentaonline, 2009 (14)  ( page no longer available , search in web archives ), PDF.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  11. Büsser S. and Jungbluth N. (2009) LCA of Ready-to-Serve Lasagne Bolognese Packed in Aluminum Foil Containers. ESU-services Ltd. Uster, Switzerland. Commissioned by the European Aluminum Foil Association (EAFA), Düsseldorf, Germany
  12. FAO HACCP Code of practive for frozen food