Frozen food research receives historical recognition

December 02, 2002

Research that significantly contributed to the high quality and widespread acceptance of frozen foods will be recognized in a special ceremony at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., on Dec. 11. The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, will designate the research -- known as time-temperature tolerance studies -- as a National Historic Chemical Landmark. The research was conducted at the Center between 1948-1965.

Attila Pavlath, Ph.D., immediate past-president of the Society, and a former researcher at the Center, will present a bronze plaque commemorating the studies to James Seiber, Ph.D., director of the Research Center. The American Chemical Society established the chemical landmarks program in 1992 to recognize seminal historic events in chemistry and increase awareness of the contributions of chemistry to society.

Concerned about the poor quality, color and flavor of frozen foods, manufacturers turned to the Department of Agriculture following the end of World War II for research assistance to investigate the problems. The project was assigned to the Western Regional Research Center where scientists were able to determine the optimum time and temperature at which foods could be frozen. The experiments, which came to be called time-temperature tolerance studies, were conducted on frozen fruits, juices, vegetables, poultry, beef, precooked foods and bakery products.

The studies, which were the first systematic investigations into the quality problems then surrounding frozen food, uncovered chemical changes that frozen foods were undergoing as they made their way from the manufacturer to the consumer.

The scientists found that zero degrees Fahrenheit is the critical temperature for maintaining stability in most frozen foods.

The studies also revealed valuable information about the maximum time that frozen foods can be kept above zero degrees without deteriorating. Another major outcome of the research was the development of models that could be used to predict the stability and quality of a wide variety of frozen foods over time.

The freezing procedures, analytical techniques, and food handling and storage recommendations that came out of the research were instrumental in the enormous post-war success of the frozen-foods industry, with sales rising from $500 million to $68 billion between 1950-1999. The industry now has a work force of more than two million people.
-end-
Dr. James Seiber, Director, Western Regional Research Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service

American Chemical Society

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