A Century of Change: Advances in Food Machinery UK

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.

food machinery 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



Computerisation begins

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



Computerisation advances

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

Minimal processing

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