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historical drivers for the development of food processing

The major drivers for process development were the following:

  • Prehistory: Accidental discovery, for example, Cheese making often quoted as the earliest process and was discovered accidely. Most consider that cheese was first made in the Middle East. The earliest type was a form of sour milk. Legend has it that cheese was 'discovered' by an Arab nomad who filled a saddlebag with milk. After several hours riding he discovered that the milk had separated what we now know as curds and whey. The saddlebag, made from the stomach of a young animal, contained the enzyme, rennin, with coagulation caused by the rennin, the hot sun and the motions of the horse.
  • Until the late 20th century: Military needs (a secure supply of preserved foods in suitable form for the army). For example, canning was developed in 1809 by Nicolas Appert (1749-1841) who won the prize of 12,000FFr offered by Napoleon for developing a practical method of food preservation. The House of Appert became the first commercial cannery in the world, many years before Louis Pasteur proved that heat killed bacteria. His work was probably the first driven by ‘applied’ research interests when in the 1860s Pasteur was asked to help resolve some of the problems of the French wine industry, particularly that of spoilage. He found that heating the wine gently (120°F) to kill the lactic acid bacteria and let the wine age. He also suggested that greater cleanliness was needed to eliminate bacteria; this could be done with heat. Military needs also drove the development of food drying. While sun drying has been known for 4000 years, industrial drying much more recent. In 1917 the US Dept. of Agriculture produced a booklet on drying foods in the home using methods that would nowadays be regarded as probably unsafe. However, during World War 1 & 2, military research led to the development of many foods dried for military use. In the same period, spray drying and freeze drying was developed. More recently, military research led to leading to the development of packaging such as retortable pouches and trays for use in military field kitchens but now seen on supermarket shelves.
  • In the mid to late 20th century space exploration became a major driver. This was mainly towards dehydration methods but also rapid heating methods. More emphasis was placed on food weight, preservation and rapid heating with methods such as ohmic and pulsed electric field developed in the 1960/70s but this was too early for commercial uptake.
  • Simultaneously, some consumer demands started to evolve, especially in more technologically developed societies. For example, industrial freezing was developed by Clarence Birdseye in 1923 with an investment of $7. He later sold the patents in 1929 for $22 million. The first quick-frozen vegetables, fruits, seafoods and meat were sold to the public in 1930 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Currently consumer demands for convenience, low cost and safety are driving food technology developments. A major scientific problem is the inherently conflicting demands of the consumer where more convenience (often unadmitted), less processing, fresher foods, safer foods, healthier diets, greater food functionality are demanded. The conflict arises in that greater convenience and safety normally implies a greater processing need and takes the products further away from the fresh product. In addition, greater knowledge and communication is demanded by the consumer rather than just by marketing needs as had hitherto been the case.
historical_drivers_for_the_development_of_food_processing.txt · Last modified: 2015/02/18 17:02 (external edit)