Food waste is a huge problem in first world countries, and the type of food that is typically wasted is bread. In fact, according to figures released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, around 32% of loaves purchased in the UK are thrown out as waste when they could be eaten. The problem with bread is that it gets moldy very quickly, but an American company has come up with a technique that they say can keep bread mould free for upto 60 days. The way it works is that the bread is ‘treated’ in a sophisticated microwave array which kills the spores that cause the problem. The technology involved is similar to your everyday microwave at home, but works in a slightly more sophisticated way. Don Stull, chief executive from Texas Tech University in Lubbock said: “We introduce the microwave frequencies in different ways, through a slotted radiator. We get a basically homogeneous signal density in our chamber – in other words, we don’t get the hot and cold spots you get in your home microwave.”
The technology was originally designed to kill bacteria such as MRSA and salmonella, but the researchers then discovered it could kill the mould spores in bread in around 10 seconds, and mould is one of the biggest threats to bread. This is due to the way loaves are wrapped, which is usually in plastic, so that any water in the bread that evaporates from within is therefore trapped and makes the surface moist. This provides excellent growing conditions for Rhizopus stolonifer, the fungus that leads to mould.
The American company – Microzap, who are behind the new innovation, says that with this new technique, bread will stay mould free for upto two months. Stull said: “We treated a slice of bread in the device, we then checked the mould that was in that bread over time against a control, ” he added, “And at 60 days it had the same mould content as it had when it came out of the oven.”
But whether consumers will be happy to eat 60 day old bread remains to be seen. Stull agreed: “We’ll have to get some consumer acceptance of that. Most people do it by feel and if you still have that quality feel they probably will accept it.”
And Mr Stull actually thinks that by using this device, bread could start to taste of what it is really made of, as he says that bread manufacturers currently have to add lots of preservatives to try and fight mould, but then must add extra chemicals to mask the taste of the preservatives. If bakers were able to use the microwave technology, they would be able to avoid these additives.
Trouble is there is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread. Now if someone could manufacture that, I’d buy it!
Source: BBC News