Processed Foods: Origins
  • 400,000 years ago, man decided to cook meat on fire, and the first ‘processed’ food was consumed.
  • Agriculture started about 15,000 years ago and gave way to fermentation of alcohol and dairy products, baking, and preservation of meat by salt or brining.
  • Food processing has been important for keeping food edible for long, and to create new flavours.

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What were the first processed foods?

bbc.com

Most food processing done for centuries has been to soften the food, give it some shelf life and add flavour. Techniques like pasteurisation or salting also make food safer to eat and allow people to take it with them while travelling.

Some processed foods, however, bear little resemblance to the original and are extremely bad for our health.

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  • Pop soda started being manufactured in Britain about 250 years ago, as a way to make freshwater last longer for sailors on sea voyages.
  • Water injected with carbon dioxide was marketed as medicated water that could prevent diseases like scurvy.
  • The carbonated water became a huge hit, due to its acidic taste and it not getting stale as fast as normal water.
  • It began to be sold as tonic water in the mid-19th Century and became increasingly processed.

Modern soda is high-sugar and has plenty of additives that are clearly not good for the body.

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Pepsi And Coke
  • Pepsi-Cola was first sold in the 1890s as ‘Brad’s Drink’, promoted as a digestive aid. Even the name was similar to Pepsin, a digestive enzyme. The drink was heavily processed and didn’t even contain pepsin or kola nuts.
  • Coca-Cola was flavoured with coca leaves and kola nuts in the late 19th Century and was sold as a brain tonic. The stimulating drink at that time is a stark contrast to the processed version sold now.

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  • Similar to soft drinks, most processed foods would be unrecognizable to what they were a few decades ago.
  • Breakfast cereals hardly have any grain in them, just like the chocolate we have today is highly processed and refined, miles apart from what the Aztecs relished centuries before.
  • Tomato ketchup hardly has any tomatoes, while juices are marketed as juice drinks containing 1 per cent juice extract.

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Customers demand consistent taste, smell and colours from their foods, giving food manufacturers reason to adapt their products to have consistency at the cost of authenticity.

The required taste and texture can easily be created from extracts, making food cheaper and faster to make in bulk quantities and with the required consistency.

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Raw starch can be filled with colours, flavours, sugars, thickeners, gelling agents and emulsifiers to create artificial food, which tastes consistent but does not have anything of value.

The person who eats this highly processed ‘food’ isn’t eating anything really but is fooling the taste buds while filling the body with junk.

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  • Most food processing done today is for how it looks, and how convenient it becomes to process, ship, and consume as fast as possible.
  • Packaging often costs ten times the food inside, as manufacturers know that how the outer packaging looks to the consumer is a major factor for its sale in a highly competitive market.
  • Sugar and its artificial derivatives are a major health concern but are added in bulk by manufacturers as it compensates for the over-processing, providing it texture, bulk and preservative benefits.

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