George Washington had a collection of 476 kinds of pickles. To prevent scurvy, Christopher Columbus stocked pickles on the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Julius Caesar, believing pickles to be invigorating, added them to the Roman legions' diet. In 5000 BCE, the Babylonians were known for pickling with date palm vinegar. Pickling—storing food in a salty brine or an acid solution, usually vinegar (acetic acid)—is one of humankind's oldest ways of preserving foods.
Pickles have always been popular in the United States. Today, they are having a widespread renaissance, powered in part by trendy interest in craft brands that are showing up in local stores and farmers markets all over the country. Today, each American eats an average of 9 pounds of pickles a year.
While pickling was recognized as a safe food-preservation method long before the discovery of bacteria, the kind of data that today's precise food safety standards require was not established until relatively recently.By the mid-1990s, there had not been a foodborne-illness outbreak traced to commercial pickle production in 50 years, and the basic practices that producers were following had long been considered acceptable. But in the late 1990s, incidents of bacterial contamination in acidic foods like unpasteurized orange juice and apple cider, which are the same pH as pickles, led to some sickness and even deaths. The incidents alerted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that pathogens such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7 survived at more acidic pH levels in juices than previously believed, and this led to new juice regulations. It also raised collateral questions about these pathogens in acidified foods such as pickles. This resulted in closer scrutiny of acidified food processes and prompted FDA to issue draft guidance applicable to the pickle industry.
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