NASA and Food Safety


Have you ever considered if there was a connection between NASA and food?

If you are of a certain age and when you were eating a pot noodle or other freeze dried food for the first time, maybe it didn’t cross your mind even then.

NASA technology has resulted in much more than just your freeze-dried food or baby formulas. It has given us something more substantial and important such as advancements in areas of food preparation. NASA were at the heart of an approach to food safety that is used in food industries today in many parts of the world.

Back in the early 60’s NASA was developing a program on how to feed astronauts safe, nutritious and toxin free foods in the first manned space program. They contracted with the Pillsbury Company in 1960 to develop food products for space exploration. At that time, food safety programs were merely based on inspecting the end product. Using those methods neither Pillsbury nor any other commercial company could guarantee uncontaminated food for the astronauts.



Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP)

On the insistence of NASA and for the safety of their astronauts the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) system was developed in the late 1950s by a team of food scientists and engineers from The Pillsbury Company, the Natick Research Laboratories, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The team developed a system designed to build quality into the product to ensure food safety for the manned space program.

Once the potential hazards are identified, they could be minimized or eliminated through monitoring. The system worked so well for NASA that the lead Pillsbury scientist, Dr. Howard Bauman, advocated that Pillsbury adopt it, too. This process has since been further developed and adopted in other countries and in some, it is a legal requirement for many businesses when preparing food.

Safer Cleaner Food

In simple terms, HACCP refers to procedures you must put in place to ensure the food you produce is safe.

The food safety management system (HACCP) should allow one to identify and control any hazards that could pose a danger to the preparation of safe food. It involves identifying what can go wrong, planning to prevent it and making sure you are doing it. Around the world other food industries, including restaurants, have also voluntarily adopted HACCP as well as being a legal requirement in other countries, such as Ireland and Great Britain. Around the legal requirement other industries have been created to provide HACCP training and courses to food preparation businesses.

As a result, food is safer, cleaner and you are less likely to receive contaminated food containing Salmonella, Norovirus, Campylobacter, E. coli …etc.

The next time you tuck into that pot noodle, or eating out at your favourite restaurant enjoy the fact you are eating a space age dish…well a dish prepared in space age fashion.

More Reading

Paul A. Lachance (Flight Food and Nutrition Coordinator) interviewed by Jennifer Ross-Nazzal in 2006

The Evolution of HACCP by John G. Surak

*Enlitened referenced in this post is a food consultant agency & HACCP Training company in Wexford, Ireland.