Why does food rot?
Refrigerator companies must be pretty grateful for this bit of biochemistry.
Asked by: Jacob Hipkiss, Southwell
As cells die, their membranes degrade and enzymes start leaking out. The cell digests itself, then neighbouring cells, and the process cascades. Without any immune response to stop them, bacteria and fungi will also begin eating the food and multiplying. As they munch away, they alter the texture of the food and release waste products that change the taste. There are purely chemical rotting mechanisms too, like fat oxidation, which makes it taste rancid.
Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.
Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.
May Half Price Sale
- Save up to 52% when you subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
- Risk - free offer! Cancel at any time when you subscribe via Direct Debit.
- FREE UK delivery.
- Stay up to date with the latest developments in the worlds of science and technology.