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Audio Tour Stop #2: Did You Know that Napoleon Bonaparte had a Major Role in Food Packaging and Processing?

In 1795, Napoleon offered a cash prize of 12,000 francs to whoever could come up with a long-term food preservation method. That would be the equivalent of approximately $282,000 dollars today. It took 15 years before the prize was claimed by Nicolas François Appert, the father of canning. Appert, a candy maker, placed food in jars, closed the opening with a cork and sealed it with hot wax. He then wrapped the food filled jar in canvas and boiled it. Appert’s canning process was first used by the French Navy.

 In 1810, Philippe de Girard applied the technique to tin cans instead of glass jars. He commissioned British merchant Peter Durand to apply for a patent, which was granted. By 1818, the British navy was using 40,000 pounds of canned food per year.

 Appert didn’t know exactly why canning worked. He theorized it was a result of depriving food from contact with exterior air and applying heat in a water-bath. In 1856, Louis Pasteur confirmed that Appert and de Girard's methods worked because they prevented the formation of microorganisms on food. Pasteur's discovery led to the invention of pasteurization. Canning and pasteurized food has been with us ever since.