Friday, March 04, 2011

History of Food Preservation

During the 20th century the continued application of scientific research to food production has significantly changed the way the world eats.

Food preservation is as old as human civilization. Preservation of foods inhibits spoilage cause by bacterial growth, oxidation, insects or desiccation.

The Chinese reportedly preserved vegetables by fermentation in prehistoric times and Plinius preserved white cabbage in earthenware pots in Italy in the first century AD.

The earliest recorded instances of food preservation date back to ancient Egypt and the drying of grains and subsequent storage in seal silos.

Fermentation, oil packing, pickling, salting, and smoking are all ancient preservation technologies.

Refrigeration in caves or under cool water were also well known ancient techniques of food preservation.

But the potential of this particular food preservation technique was not fully realized until the 1900’s when Clarence Birdseye introduced frozen foods to the American public.

People in many parts of the world developed techniques for drying and smoking foods as far as 6000 BC. Microorganism need water to carry out their metabolic processes.

Ancient Mesoamericans used salt as a preservative for trade in fish and other food stuff over long distances, as well as for storing food for long periods of time.

Since Phoenician times (from around 1250 BC) the standard practice for preserving fish was to gut it, dry it and pack it in layers with salt.

The first dehydrator for drying fruits and vegetables was introduced in France in 1795.

In 1803, a French chef named Nicholas Appert invented a new technique for preserving food.

He prepared and preserved soup, beef with gravy, beans and pea. The French navy store it for three months, Then they tried it. The food was delicious and safe to eat.

When Appert published this method in 1810 he had no knowledge of bacteria. It took another 50 years and Louis Pasteur to elucidate the relationship between microorganism and the spoilage of food.

In 1854 Louis Pasteur began his investigation in wine. And pasteurization process of milk was begun in Germany and United States in 1880 and 1890 respectively.

Freezing did not fully develop until the 1950s. Freezing keeps food safe by slowing the movement of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant stage.

It extended periods of time because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness; so frozen food is theoretically safe forever.

The term of irradiation appeared only around 1950s, but the technology can be traced back to the late 19th century.

Although food preservation has now reached a high standard at least in the developed countries, the quantities of food still spoiled are astonishing.

According to estimates, no less than 20% of foods produced never reached the consumer’s table because of attack beforehand by rodents, insects or microorganisms.
History of Food Preservation