While it may seem hard to imagine today, in a world where food has been made so convenient and plentiful thanks to advances in food processing and food machinery, UK citizens (particularly those in areas like Northern Ireland) were struggling with drastic food shortages and poor food quality less than 100 years ago. In the early decades of the 20th century, poverty and insufficient access to quality nutrition meant that infections and diseases caused by nutritional deficiencies were common. As the world endured two successive wars, economic depression, and post-war austerity, the situation looked bleak until advances in nutritional and food science (moving hand in hand with advances in technology that allowed for better food processing techniques and new food machinery UK) swept in to dramatically improve the health of the populace. By 1950, these changes had been remarkable and far-reaching enough that many previously common infectious diseases were under control.
Post-war prosperity saw scientific advances grow in scope and magnitude, giving the food processing industry technologies we now take for granted; freezing and chilling were increasingly utilised, along with automation, computerisation, drying, heat processing, controlled and modified atmosphere packaging, and quality testing. By 1999, the food processing industry was reliably delivering safe, nutritious and good-tasting food to people around the UK.
Notable Advances in Food Processing and Food Machinery (UK)
The following timeline attempts to delineate the major advancements in food processing and food machinery UK (post-1900):
Malnutrition and infant mortality are high
Development of the first flour bleaching agent
Milk pasteurisation begins
Drum drying used
Advent of sanitary cans; canned baked beans become common
Relationship between diet and health explored; existence of vitamins suggested
Hydrogenation of oils begun
Higher extraction of flour
Post harvest mechanisation employed
Working class diet still poor
Vitamins A and D added to margarine
Advances in food machinery UK sees use of plate heat exchangers, tubular blanchers, and juice extractors.
Mechanisation in abattoirs
Lacquered cans used for the first time
Brine injection technology
Rapid freezing technology
Spray drying developed, used to make instant coffee
Wrapped, sliced bread debuts
Milk cartons used
Refrigerated retail cabinets sold
Fortification used to create National loaf
Preservatives successfully prolong the life of meat
Mass production of chocolate begins
Freeze drying used to extend the life of vegetables
Additives see more application; used as flour improvers
HTST milk pasteuriser comes into use
Nutrition education becomes more common
Preservatives added to baked goods
Controlled atmosphere storage introduced
Aseptic canning developed, making canned foods safer
Tetra Pak packaging developed, made antiseptic.
Frozen foods advance, fish fingers debut
Instant mashed potatoes developed
Tea bags introduced
Links between cholesterol and heart disease found
Convenience foods proliferate
Advances in plastic packaging keep food stored safer, longer.
Nutritional labelling becomes standard
Chilled prepared foods become common
Modified atmosphere packaging developed
“Diet” foods become more common as further links between diet and disease are discovered.
Increasing company specialisation
Fat substitutes such as Simplesse developed
Limited use of irradiation