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Scope Series 4 RTÉ Two, Thursday, 7.00pm

Celebrity: Greg Ryan

Greg RyanThis week pop star Greg Ryan has chosen tinned beans as his favourite invention of all time.

Food started to be stored in tins way back in 1825 as methods of storing food for longer were sought.During the French Revolutionary Wars, a hefty cash reward of 12,000 Francs was offered to any inventor who could come up with a cheap and effective method of preserving large amounts of food for the massive armies.

In 1809, the French confectioner Nicolas François Appert developed a method of vacuum-sealing food inside glass jars. However, glass containers were unsuitable for transportation. The glass jars were replaced with cylindrical tin or wrought-iron canisters (later shortened to "cans"), which were both cheaper and quicker to make and much more resilient than fragile glass jars.

Due to the danger posed by Clostridium Botulinum (the causative agent of botulism) and other pathogens, the only safe method of canning most foods was under conditions of both high heat and pressure, normally at temperatures of 240 - 250°F (116 - 121°C). Foods that must be pressure canned include most vegetables, meats, seafood, poultry, and dairy products.

Increasing mechanisation of the canning process, coupled with a huge increase in urban populations across Europe, resulted in a rising demand for tinned food.

Canned food also began to spread beyond Europe - Thomas Kensett established the first American canning factory in New York City in 1812, using improved tin-plated wrought-iron cans for preserving oysters, meats, fruits and vegetables.

A number of inventions and improvements followed, and by the 1860s, the time to cook food in sealed cans had been reduced from around six hours to only thirty minutes.

The humble can of beans, as you can see, has been around for some time.


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