The fridge might be a recent invention but refrigeration has been existing for centuries. Ancient civilisations in China for instance used blocks of ice harvested from frozen lakes to refresh their food or drinks. However, it’s only in 1913 that the first domestic refrigerator was invented. The invention then quickly became more commonly used, 99% of British households own a refrigerator and in the USA, up to a quarter of the population possesses two fridges. We, therefore, tend to take refrigeration for granted without realising the extent of the impact it had on our life.
1- Free up time and efforts
The first noticeable gain offered by refrigerators is the saving of time. Prior to domestic refrigeration, the fresh commodities were transported at night to be consumed within a short time. The housewives then had to buy the daily perishables every day before cooking them and drying, canning, smoking or salting the items that needed to go through conservation processes. All these tasks occupied a big part of the Housewives’ daily routine and the fridge, therefore, lightened greatly her labors.
2- More varied diet
The possibility to preserve food made it possible to transport it to greater distances. New products were introduced in people’s diet who saw their choices expand beyond seasonal foods. The shops also became able to offer food in bigger quantities which meant even more variety for the consumers, all year-round. People discovered new flavours, textures, and the freshest tastes. A varied diet also meant better nutrition which benefited to people’s health as well.
3- More affordable food
With commodities now being available in greater quantity, their price dropped and became more affordable. An increasing number of people were granted access to a varied and higher-quality diet which sharply improved people’s nutrition, including the poorest classes of society. What’s more, refrigeration contributed to saving money as it has clearly reduced food waste.
4- Safer food consumption
Another obvious perk of refrigeration is that it contributed to making food safer. Indeed, keeping perishables below the danger zone temperature (4-5 to 60 °C / 39-41 to 140 °F) reduces the growth of foodborne bacteria. Perishables kept within this temperature range can lead, if ingested, to foodborne illnesses. The symptoms of food poisoning are similar to gastroenteritis and include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, etc.
Those are only the main changes that fridge had on our lives but the impact of refrigeration as a whole goes even further. It is therefore understandable that refrigerator was voted the most important invention in the history of food by the UK national academy of science.