Development of dehydration processes receives historical recognition

Research that led to the development of instant mashed potatoes at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pa., will be designated as a National Historic Chemical Landmark on April 18. The American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, sponsors the Landmarks program.

The ERRC’s innovations in dehydration processes made possible convenience foods such as instant mashed potatoes and crispy potato snacks, products familiar to consumers worldwide. These ERRC achievements in food chemistry improved the overall value of the U.S. potato crop and expanded the utilization of numerous other agricultural commodities.

Catherine T. Hunt, Ph.D., president of the ACS, will present a commemorative bronze plaque to John Cherry, Ph.D, director of the ERRC. The ACS established the chemical landmarks program in 1992 to recognize seminal events in the history of chemistry and to increase public awareness of the contributions of chemistry to society.

“On behalf of ERRC's employees, I am pleased that the American Chemical Society has recognized our earlier work developing food dehydration technologies with their prestigious Historic Landmark Award,” Cherry said. “This is a proud moment for those who completed these projects and for us following in their footsteps.”

Research on dehydration technology in the 1950s at the ERRC led to the introduction of potato flakes. Because of their long shelf life, the flakes are used by the U.S. military for food rations and are a key component of international food aid programs. Millions of pounds of potato flakes are purchased by the USDA for use in school lunch programs and other domestic child nutrition and food assistance projects.

Find out more on the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program. To find out more about the research into dehydration processes and the upcoming ceremony commemorating the Landmark designation, go to the ERRC Web site.