Introduction to the Microbiological Spoilage of Foods and Beverages

  • William H. Sperber
Part of the Food Microbiology and Food Safety book series (FMFS)


Though direct evidence of ancient food-handling practices is difficult to obtain and examine, it seems safe to assume that over the span of several million years, prehistoric humans struggled to maintain an adequate food supply. Their daily food needed to be hunted or harvested and consumed before it spoiled and became unfit to eat. Freshly killed animals, for example, could not have been kept for very long periods of time. Moreover, many early humans were nomadic, continually searching for food. We can imagine that, with an unreliable food supply, their lives must have often been literally “feast or famine.” Yet, our ancestors gradually learned by accident, or by trial and error, simple techniques that could extend the storage time of their food (Block, 1991). Their brain capacity was similar to that of modern humans; therefore, some of them were likely early scientists and technologists. They would have learned that primitive cereal grains, nuts and berries, etc. could be stored in covered vessels to keep them dry and safer from mold spoilage. Animal products could be kept in cool places or dried and smoked over a fire, as the controlled use of fire by humans is thought to have begun about 400,000 years ago. Quite likely, naturally desiccated or fermented foods were also noticed and produced routinely to provide a more stable supply of edible food. Along with the development of agricultural practices for crop and animal production, the “simple” food-handling practices developed during the relatively countless millennia of prehistory paved the way for human civilizations.


Lactic Acid Bacterium Shelf Life Modify Atmosphere Packaging Bacterial Spore Food Spoilage 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cargill, Inc., Food Safety & Reg. AffairsMinnetonkaUSA

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