With all of the wars the United States has fought, it’s no surprise that scientists needed to invent ways provide military men with essential nutrients. Some of our favorite prepackaged and processed foods were initially invented for use during wars like World War II and Vietnam. Today, they can still be found sitting on store shelves, and we consume some of them every single day.
Canning originally gained some traction when the French government held a competition to help feed Napolean’s army. The need for the process became popular in the United States during the Spanish-American war, when the military realized it needed to get preserved food to its troops without it spoiling. However, it took years for scientists and the military to understand bacteria in a way that would allow them to safely preserve foods for human consumption. Today, canned and jarred foods are in everyone’s cupboards.
The process of freeze-drying foods wasn’t initially created for food. It was used to transport blood and vaccines in the military. However, scientists realized this process could be repurposed and used for making perishable foods last longer. Behold, instant coffee. Many other products today also use the freeze-drying process, such as instant ramen and cookie mix.
There’s nothing like that savory powdered cheese that dusts your fingers to remind you just how many Cheetos you’ve eaten. Well, you can thank the military for that. This full-fat, dehydrated cheese was invented during WWII as a way to reduce the weight and volume of food shipments, but soon after the war, it ended up in the hands of the public, too.
If you’ve ever noticed that energy bars don’t taste very good, you’re not wrong, according to Popular Science. Energy bars were developed by scientists with two things in mind: They wouldn’t melt easily, and they wouldn’t taste great. Since soldiers might not be able to eat the bar for a while, it needed to be (sort of) melt resistant. Plus, the not-so-good taste was created to make sure soldiers didn’t crave energy bars, and instead only ate them when they absolutely needed them.
Intermediate Moisture Foods
This type of food is made with too little water for bacteria to quickly grow. Examples of IMF foods are pastries, soft and chewy cookies, etc. Essentially, it’s anything with a hint of moisture to it. According to Popular Science, the military hired Pillsbury to create the first IMF products, which were introduced in 1970. Today, snacks like granola bars and Hostess pies fill store shelves.
It really is the best thing. Fresh bread has a short shelf life, which didn’t work for those in the military. Scientists successfully developed a way to prevent bread from growing moldy within a couple of days — starch-snacking enzymes. With these additives, supermarket bread now lasts up to two weeks without growing a spot of mold; sometimes, even longer.
Packaged salads might be the best thing since sliced bread. They are preserved using modified atmosphere packaging, which delays ripening of the veggies and prevents the lettuce from spoiling. This packaging was developed during the Vietnam War as a way of transporting lettuce to soldiers. Originally, large containers were “modified” to house the lettuce, but nowadays, you’ll see individual salad packages in grocery stores.
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