Packaging

The 80-foot microwave

November 7, 2012
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
Trans

Shelf-stable foods prepared with microwave-assisted thermal sterilization may soon debut, provided the packaging riddle can be solved.
 
Commercial sterilization of food with microwave power inched closer to reality in August, when a pilot scale system arrived at Evansville, IN copacker AmeriQual. A second 22-ft. long R&D unit is expected to be delivered to another copacker, Cincinnati’s Wornick, by year’s end and foreshadows construction of an industrial-scale system.
 
The equipment is being built by Food Chain Safety, a Maple Valley, WA startup that licensed the technology from Washington State University. Known as MATS (microwave-assisted thermal sterilization), the technology was developed by Juming Tang, a WSU engineering professor, with funding from a coalition that included the US Army Natick Soldier Center, Kraft Foods, Hormel Foods and Masterfoods USA. Unlike the multi-mode signals used in home microwaves, a single-mode signal at 915 MHz bombards trays and pouches as they move through a tunnel in a shallow bed of water (see “Move over, retort,” Food Engineering, February 2010).
 
Both AmeriQual and Wornick are MRE suppliers to the military, using conventional retort to prepare field rations that can survive extreme temperatures and humidity. Improving the quality of those meals has been a long-running goal at Natick, and the military’s food scientists believe microwave sterilization represents a significant food-quality upgrade.
 
Two packaging companies were part of the WSU consortium, but neither firm is involved with the current project. Instead, Atlanta-based Printpack Inc. is filling the role of package developer. While microwaveable pouches and trays are well established for home use, surviving the sterilization process and maintaining oxygen-free integrity for 24 months is new territory.
 
Printpack recently scored a minor coup with a bag for Movie Theater Popcorn, a heat-and-serve popcorn in a microwave-safe bag from Popcorn, Indiana. “It took a few years to develop, but our packaging partner finally cracked the code,” says Jeff Dworzanski, marketing director for Englewood, NJ-based Popcorn, Indiana. “From a touch and look perspective, it’s the same as our other bags,” but the five-layer poly structure can withstand 30 seconds of microwave heating without leaching any chemicals.
 
The R&D units, named MATS-B, process about 10 items per batch in 10-12 minutes, according to Kevin Petersen, founder and chairman of Food Chain Safety. An order for the MATS-150 has been received, “and we’re in the process of building it now,” he reports. That machine, measuring about 85 ft. in length, will produce 150 units a minute. 
 
For more information:
Kevin Petersen, Food Chain Safety, 425-830-3750, kpetersen@fcsmats.com

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

Recent Articles by Kevin Higgins, Senior Editor

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

Plant of the Year 2014

Blue Diamond Growers was chosen as Food Engineering's 2014 Plant of the Year. The Sacramento-based company is the world’s largest producer of almonds and almond ingredients.

Podcasts

Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

Food Engineering

FE October 2014 Cover

2014 October

The October 2014 issue of Food Engineering explores companies that have successfully grappled with "the new business reality" and are coming to terms with it being here to stay. Also, read about the work going on behind the scenes to keep FSMA on track.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

FSMA Audit

What is the is most important step you have taken to become ready for a FSMA audit?
View Results Poll Archive

THE FOOD ENGINEERING STORE

Food-Authentication-Flyer-(.gif
Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

STAY CONNECTED

FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.png linkedin_40px.pngGoogle +

Food Master

Food Master Cover 2014Food Master 2014 is now available!

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit www.foodmaster.com to learn more.