Associated Press Report: Texas Tech Microwave Keeps Bread Mold at Bay
Attention, bread shoppers: A Texas Tech-based company could have the answer to some consumers’ unwelcome discovery that just-purchased loaves contain mold, reports the Associated Press today (Jan. 8). MicroZap Inc. claims its technology allows bread to stay mold-free for 60 days.
MicroZap was spun off from patented technology developed through cutting-edge food sterilization research at the International Center for Food Industry Excellence, which is led by Mindy Brashears, a professor in Texas Tech’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences.
The bread is bombarded with microwaves for about 10 seconds, which kills the mold spores, said chief executive officer Don Stull said. The process could eliminate bakers’ need for preservatives and ingredients used to mask preservatives’ flavor, as well as reduce food waste and increase bread’s shelf life, he said.
Researchers at Texas Tech also see using the technology in bread made in developing countries, where there are fewer food safety standards and spoilage is a problem. “It could help us provide an abundant food source for those in need,” said Brashears, who also serves as director of the university’s Center for Food Industry Excellence. The prospect of helping people in developing countries is what motivated the microbiology professor to help develop the technology over the last eight years.
After 60 days, researchers found the treated bread that remained packaged had the same mold content when compared to a freshly baked loaf, Stull said. In the end, though, he knows it comes down to consumers’ palates. The consumers saw no discernible quality difference in the breads, said testers who found the treated bread’s taste and texture unchanged. An Associated Press reporter found the same. Though slightly warm from the microwaves, a piece of whole-grain white bread was soft and tasted like one that hadn’t been zapped. Sixty-day-old bread was not available to taste.
Estimates from the Natural Resources Defense Council this year indicated that in 2008, in-store food losses in the U.S. totaled an estimated 43 billion pounds—10 percent of all foods supplied to retail outlets—most of which are perishables, including bread. Unrefrigerated bread in plastic packaging will succumb to mold in about 10 days, so keeping it at bay for 60 days presents a fresh proposition.
A patent is pending on the MicroZap technology and company officials in talks with investors. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has contacted MicroZap about possibly using the technology for exported fruits and vegetables. The technology—an effort funded by $1.5 million from Texas’ Emerging Technology Fund—was initially intended to kill bacteria such as MRSA, a contagious bacterial infection that’s resistant to many commonly used antibiotics, and salmonella. But researchers discovered it also killed mold spores in bread and sterilized fresh or processed foods without cooking or damaging them.
Reporting By Betsy Blaney / Associated Press
CONTACT: Mindy Brashears, Professor, Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2805 ext. 235 or firstname.lastname@example.org