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Inventor Lloyd Hall created groundbreaking ways to savor the flavor

by Ezekiel J. Walker
Inventor Lloyd Hall created groundbreaking ways to savor the flavor
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Lloyd Augustus Hall invented a number of ways to better preserve food. Many food preservatives used today were pioneered by Dr. Hall’s methods. Before his research, salts were primarily used to preserve food and it was difficult to keep foods from spoiling without making them taste bitter.

In 1932 he found a way to use a combination of salt with tiny crystals of sodium nitrate and nitrite that suppressed the nitrogen that spoiled food. This patented method of curing meats is still used today.

Born on June 20, 1894 in Elgin, Illinois, Hall would go on to become an honor student while attending West Side High School in Aurora, Illinois and captained the school debate team while competing in baseball, football and track. Lloyd graduated high school in the top 10 of his class and had to choose between four college scholarship offers. He decided to attend Northwestern University, earning a Bachelor Degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry in 1916. While there, Hall went to classes with a student named Carroll L. Griffith who would later go on to become the founder of Griffith Laboratories.

Dr. Hall served as a consultant for Griffith’s Laboratories from 1925-1929, then as technical director and chief chemist of Griffith’s Laboratories in Chicago (1929 –1946). From 1946-1959, Lloyd Hall served as technical director, and as an assistant chief inspector of high explosives and research for the United States government in World War I.  Dr. Hall was a consultant in the subsistence development and research laboratories of the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army during World War II. He held over 100 patents in the United States, Britain, and Canada.

Hall’s inventions bettered society as a whole when he developed new methods of food preservation and sterilization which eliminated spoilage and health hazards and enhanced efficiency and profitability for food suppliers.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame calls Hall a pioneer in the field of food chemistry, reiterating that his “flash-dried” salt crystals  created many of the preservative chemicals that are now used to keep food fresh without losing its flavor. Far superior to any products available at that time, Hall helped to revolutionize the meatpacking industry.

Lloyd Hall pioneered antioxidant use when he discovered that foods with fats and oils spoiled when certain ingredients react with oxygen in the air. He was the first to use the chemicals lecithin, propyl gallate, and ascorbyl palmitate as antioxidants, and he developed a process that made it easier to mix these chemicals with food in order to protect it. One of his most successful products was an antioxidant salt mixture. His efforts in this area convinced Griffith Laboratories to open a large manufacturing facility devoted to protein hydrolysates.

Hall introduced the use of antioxidants to prevent spoilage of fats and oils in bakery products. Later, Hall demonstrated that many spices and flavorings, such as ginger and cloves, rather than acting as preservatives as was commonly believed, actually exposed foods to various microbes. In response, he devised a special process known as the Ethylene Oxide Vacugas treatment to control the growth of molds and bacteria while maintaining appearance, taste, and aroma.

He found a way to remove mixtures and gases by subjecting the food to a vacuum and then adding ethylene oxide gas into a vacuum chamber. “Vacuum” sterilization treatment was later applied to drugs, hospital supplies, and cosmetic supplies.

After his retirement, he became a consultant to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Lloyd Hall is responsible for many of the meat curing products, seasonings, emulsions, bakery products, antioxidants, protein hydrolysates, and other substances we use to this day.

Information for this article was obtained via ACS Chemistry for Life, African American Registry, MIT and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

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