food preservation

Introduction

food preservation, methods of preparing food so that it can be stored for future use. Because most foods remain edible for only a brief period of time, people since the earliest ages have experimented with methods for successful food preservation. Among the products of early food conservation were cheese and butter, raisins, pemmican, sausage, bacon, and grain.

As scientific investigations regarding the causes of food spoilage were undertaken, they pointed the way to a wider application of methods already in use and to the discovery of new ones. Before 1860 changes in food were explained on the theory of spontaneous generation. Pasteur demonstrated that ferments, molds, and some forms of putrefaction were caused by the presence of microorganisms widely distributed in the environment. Since these microorganisms are the main cause of food spoilage, food preservation depends on rendering conditions unfavorable for their growth. Processes of preservation may be generally classified as drying, heating, refrigeration (see also frozen foods), and the use of chemicals or other particular agencies.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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