Massey University researchers are investigating whether establishing an Innovation Centre focused on a novel food processing technology could transform New Zealand’s food industry.
The University hosted a workshop at its Manawatu Campus on October 11, 2016 attended by representatives from American-based company ‘915 Labs’ and major food companies, researchers, scientists and the government.
The Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilisation (MATS) and Microwave Assisted Pasteurisation (MAPS) technology was originally developed by Washington State University over a 10-year period, funded by the US government and a wide range of food companies.
‘915 Labs’ holds the exclusive, worldwide license to the technology.
Hastening heat process
MATS uses microwaves to speed up the heating process for packaged foods, essentially combining a continuous retort with a microwave.
By reducing the cooking time, food quality can be significantly improved without compromising food safety or shelf life. It also provides an extended shelf-life on heat sensitive products like fish and vegetables that previously have been adversely affected by thermal treatment.
MAPS is similar to MATS but operates with lower temperatures and shorter heating times required for Pasteurisation.
In the MAPS system, packaged foods and beverages are heated simultaneously with hot water and microwave energy to a temperature of 700 to 800 for two to ten minutes,
eliminating viral and bacterial pathogens.
Dr Abby Thompson, Director of Massey’s Riddet Innovation, said that the technology makes products look and taste fresher and retains more sensitive nutritional components, achieving safe food with an extended shelf life.
“This technology enables development of premium fresh-life foods and meals with enhanced consumer appeal with sufficient shelf life to supply both domestic and export markets with products targeting retail, food service and institutional applications. It is a real game changer,” Dr Thompson said.