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How Louis Pasteur Helped Prevent Food Waste

Few people know Louis Pasteur by name, even though they’ve benefited greatly from his brilliant mind. Of all the memorabilia and historical autographs for sale from leading curators like the Raab Collection, Louis Pasteur’s is among the most coveted for science enthusiasts. Why? Because his sustainabulitydiscoveries are credited with saving countless lives.

French-born Louis Pasteur was one of the greatest chemists and microbiologists that ever lived. His discovering helped to improve food production and reduce waste.

Louis Pasteur’s Contribution to Sustainability

After studying at École Normale University in Paris and becoming a chemist, Louis Pasteur went on to become a chemistry professor at the University of Strasbourg. There he met his wife and also uncovered molecular asymmetry.

About a decade later Pasteur became a professor of chemistry at the University of Lille. It is here that he began to study fermentation. He identified living organisms were part of the process. This lead to the germ theory of fermentation.

Have you ever wondered where the term pasteurized milk came from? That’s right. It’s named after Pasteur, the man who invented the pasteurization process that prevents milk from spoiling. After developing his germ theory of fermentation, Pasteur also discovered that the fermentation process could be halted if oxygen was passed through the fermenting fluid (Pasteur Effect).

His understanding of the organisms at work was quickly applied in wine and beer making since French makers were having problems with contamination during exportation. Pasteur discovered that the contamination was due to microbes. This is when the pasteurization was first applied to foods. It’s a process that has dramatically improved sustainability and reduced waste. Not to mention saving people from getting sick after consuming spoiled foods and beverages.

Cleaning Up

Pasteur’s work with microbial fermentation also debunked the spontaneous generation theory. This led the way for a new study in science; bacteriology. The study of bacteriology in turn led to new techniques in sterilization.

Naturally, Pasteur took on the challenge of curing disease next. It all began when he was asked to help solve a mysterious disease that was killing silkworms and the silk industry in France. It took five years, but Pasteur identified the organisms responsible for the disease and saved the silkworms.

During this work, Pasteur realized the complexity of infectious diseases and how life forms react to it. His observations were the basis for his germ theory of disease. Despite being scoffed at because he was a chemist, not a doctor, Pasteur pursued his theory. It’s a good thing that he did, because his pursuit eventually led to the development of vaccines and immunology.

Pasteur made a critical discovery while studying the bacteria that caused chicken cholera in fowl. He discovered that over generations, the chicken cholera lost its pathogenicity and remained in a weakened form. Pasteur decided to inoculate some chickens with the weakened strain of the disease and they were then immune to the full-strength version of the disease.

Pasteur quickly began testing the procedure on other diseases and found continued success. He then turned his attention to anthrax, which was killing people in France in 1879. Pasteur and German physician Robert Koch identified anthrax bacillus as causing the deadly infections. This helped validate Pasteur’s germ theory of disease, which eventually led to medical microbiology.

Creating vaccines for chicken cholera and anthrax began a passionate pursuit for Pasteur. He focused his attention on pathogenic microbes that cause infections. His last big contribution was creating a vaccine against rabies that is still used today, despite not being able to visually detect the virus behind the disease. Pasteur’s work made him a pioneer in infectious pathology and significantly improved our understanding of how germs cause illness.

After Pasteur’s germ discoveries, surgical procedures changed, antibacterial soaps were developed and numerous cleaning products were created. Unfortunately, Pasteur couldn’t foresee how chemical-based cleaners could impact people’s health. Today, more and more people are turning to essential oils for house cleaning to combat germs without the adverse health effects. But if it weren’t for Pasteur we wouldn’t know why they work!

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Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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