Our subject for today is frozen foods. According to the Today in Science History website, it was on this day, 6 March 1930, that General Foods first started selling individually packaged frozen foods. Called ‘Birds Eye Frosted Foods’, the idea came from a guy called Clarence Birdseye, who started offering frozen food for sale to the public in 1929, after seeing people thawing and eating frozen fish during a visit to Canada.
Within the first 2 months, sales of the Birds Eye line of frozen foods increased significantly, prompting the start of a huge retail frozen foods industry.
Freezing is one of the easiest ways of preserving food for future use, by either killing or inhibiting pathogens that cause food spoilage. It is, however, not as effective as high-temperature treatments since less of the harmful pathogens are killed, and those that are only inhibited are likely to again become active once the frozen foods are thawed. Some spoilage processes are also only slowed down and not stopped, and so frozen foods can typically only be kept for a limited time, particularly in some domestic freezers which may not maintain food at low enough temperatures. Long term storage apparently requires temperatures of 0 °F (-18 °C) or lower. Of course boiling and then freezing food greatly increases the effectiveness of the preservation.
As far as nutritional value is concerned, some vitamin loss is said to occur during freezing, mainly Vitamin C, but also, to a much lesser extent, Vitamins B1, B2 and A.
Despite its limitations, freezing remains one of the most widely used preservation techniques, with frozen pre-cooked meals counting among the most popular products. Its convenience and practical value has made the frozen foods industry a massive multi-national, multi-million dollar industry.
So next time you grab a quick frozen meal from the freezer, think about good old Clarence Birdseye and the Canadians with their frozen fish, who started it all back in the early part of the 20th century.