With the enactment of the Pure Food & Drug act in 1906, Catsup manufacturers were drawing fire for labels that claimed their Catsups were made from “Pure Ripen Tomatos” but in most cases were actually made “from a filthy, decomposed and putrid vegetable substance and from tomato pulp screened from peelings and cores.” (The Law of Pure Food and Drug by William Wheeler Thornton)
Charles F. Loudon’s factory in Terre Haute, Indiana (where Climax Catsup was bottled) played a pivotal role in changing all that.
The first two products bottled at Loudon’s Terre Haute facility were “Climax Catsup” and “Loudon’s Catsup.” … To prevent contamination, cookers were glass-lined and the pipes were porcelain-lined.
… With little government control over labeling or content, catsup, or “ketchup” as it was called by many manufacturers, consisted of just about anything.
…As early as 1882, national periodicals warned consumers to avoid using commercial ketchup.
…No one in the catsup industry was more active in promoting fine tomato products than Loudon. In 1902, he submitted a carefully documented paper… addressing the need for preservatives in the manufacture of catsup.
Loudon reported he had tried to make preservative-free catsup but received complaints from grocers regarding fermentation soon after opening. As a result, he urged the association to adopt guidelines for the use of harmless preservatives.
… [he advocated] the use of benzoates as preservatives. He was supported by other major ketchup manufacturers, including H.J. Heinz Co., Richard J. Evans and Glenn Mason.
Harvey Wiley, chief of chemistry division at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, disagreed. … Dr. Wiley believed benzoates were dangerous…
Wiley enlisted two scholars to discover how to produce a preservative-free catsup: Dr. Arval Bitting… and an associate Katherine Golden.
…In 1907, the Bittings asked if they could use the Loudon Packing’s Terre Haute plant — reputed to be the most modern in the U.S. — to conduct their experiments. The Bittings were extremely impressed with “the Loudon method.”
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Fresh tomatoes were brought to the factory in wagons, often lined up outside the factory for several hundred yards, and loaded them into 45-gallon crates.
The fruit was placed on “an endless belt” while female employees on both sides manually picked out spoiled or speckled tomatoes with an “unsuitable appearance.” Unripe tomatoes were placed in slatted boxes and allowed to ripen.
The ripe tomatoes were washed in a large tank under a stream of water with a force of 65 pounds turning them over. As the tomatoes left the tank they were sprayed by four additional water sprays before being carried up an incline to casks with steam, where they were heated until the skin loosened and the pulp softened.
Seeds, cores and skins were removed from the pulp by a “cyclone machine.” The pure residue was pumped through enamel-lined pipes into enamel holding tanks used for cooking. Spices, sugar, salt and vinegar were added near the end of the cooking process.
The Bittings asked Loudon to produce 3,000 cases of catsup without benzoate, using the Loudon recipe with two exceptions: more vinegar and more sugar. The experiment worked. There were no spoilage complaints for reasonable periods of time.
Terre Haute’s Loudon Packing Company
By Mike McCormick
The Terre Haute TribStar, August 12, 200