The preservation of food in a clean and healthy, or fit to eat, state is a relatively new concept.
It didn’t really become an issue until the beginning of the industrial era when the mass migration of the workforce from a country to a town environment meant that as the home grew smaller, larders and clean storage spaces soon began to disappear.
In order to house a growing urban population, the Victorians began the trend of creating a ‘safe food’ environment but initially only amongst the upper layers of society.
Poverty was poverty after all and if such was your lot, then hard cheese in more senses than one. To grow successfully bacteria needs four things : food, (the food itself) warmth, (+ cooking, – chilling and freezing) moisture (drying, curing, salting) and air or oxygen (canning, vaccuum packing)
Depriving them of one or more of the four will slow their growth and therefore their ability to reproduce and thereby the production of the harmful toxins that can cause illness.
It has been argued that the fifth element required is time but since none of the four primary preserving methods will ensure safety over longer periods it is unnecessary to mention.
The refrigerator and the freezer remove the warmth element and here are some early examples of advertisments for the now ubiquitous ‘fridge’ taken from the Good Housekeeping (1929) volumes in the archive.
Please note that on the image to the left there is a quotation from that great epicure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.