If you’re interested in food technology and microbiology, then you’ve very likely come across Louis Pasteur’s contributions. Louis Pasteur is a French scientist from the 1800s, famously recognized as the “father of microbiology” for his scientific discoveries.
Pasteur received various academic distinctions for his work, with many organizations, hospitals, schools, and streets honouring his name. He had a strong impact on food safety and technology, along with other fields, as he made incredible discoveries that led to the development of the germ theory, pasteurization, and fermentation (to name a few).
Here’s a closer look at how Pasteur created his legacy for those studying food safety and technology.
The Study of Fermentation and the Discovery of the Pasteur Effect
Louis Pasteur was a chemistry professor and dean of the science faculty at the University of Lille in France. There, he began to study the alcohol production process at a local distillery, experimenting on alcoholic fermentation and attributing different microorganisms to the development of specific fermentation processes. Through his studies, Pasteur discovered lactic acid (souring milk) as well as butyric acid fermentation.
Pasteur’s in-depth study of fermentation also allowed him to discover ways in which the process itself could be stopped—by stopping oxygen flow in a process known as the Pasteur Effect. By investigating how oxygen impacts fermentation, Pasteur revealed revolutionary findings on anaerobic and aerobic organisms.
Exploring Pasteur’s Experiments for Those in Food Technology Training
Around this time, the concept of fermentation and putrefaction was typically linked to the idea of spontaneous generation, which argues that life could develop suddenly from nonliving matter. Pasteur began investigating this concept, which was also used to explain how diseases developed and food was spoiled.
Students in food technology training might be interested to know about his famous beef broth experiments in 1859. Pasteur boiled beef broth in a “swan-neck” flask with filters to trap dust and other contaminants. The flask’s design prevented dust and other contaminants from reaching the broth—remaining sterile after boiling.
However, when the twisted bends of the flask were curved downwards into the broth, bacteria started forming—contaminating the food. Pasteur also used different filters to trap air and other particles, clearly showing that contamination occurred due to external contact and not spontaneous generation.
Pasteur’s Impact on the Germ Theory and the Discovery of Pasteurization
These studies and experiments also pushed Pasteur to discover the process of pasteurization – perhaps his most well-known invention, that was subsequently named after him. Students taking food technology courses will know that the process of pasteurization relies on heating foods and beverages to a certain temperature (typically varying between 60° to 100°C, depending on the product), and maintaining that temperature for a determined period of time to kill unwanted pathogens. That process was first developed in 1862 and is still in use today, especially in the mass production of milk.
Pasteur’s experiments provided solid evidence that disproved spontaneous generation. His findings have even paved the way for the development of the germ theory, which states that some diseases are caused by invading microorganisms. Although his research and contributions were not quickly implemented, they grew in popularity—ultimately shaping the food safety and technology industry along with microbiology.
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