Would You Eat Two Month Old Bread?

You might not want to eat 60-day-old bread but thanks (?) to a Texas company, Microzap, you might soon be able to. The company, which has laboratories on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, has created what the BBC described as a “long, metallic microwave device that resembles an industrial production line.” The device was actually created to kill bacteria such as salmonella but it has been found to be able to kill mold spores in bread in about 20 seconds.

Yes, in less than a minute, bread with a far longer shelf life.

Microzap chief executive Don Stull says that the technology for the machine is mostly the same as in an ordinary microwave but with the difference of “homogeneous signal density.” That is, food in the machine is heated consistently throughout, whereas food warmed in a regular microwave can have cold and hot spots.

Could this invention revolutionize industrial bread manufacturing as we know it?

Apparently, says the BBC, a number of bread manufacturers have expressed interest in the machine. But as Stull himself observes, consumers would need some convincing to buy a product for which freshness has come to be equated with quality. He does point out that the Microzap “zapping” could eliminate the need for the numerous preservatives currently added to bread, as well as other chemicals added to mask their taste.

(No word on how the microwave zapping itself might affect people’s health, though.)

Other foods (ground turkey, jalapeņos and pet foods) can also be sterilized via the technique and their shelf life extended.

Noting that Pentagon officials say troops in the field are weary of peanut butter and jam on crackers, Stull says the technique has potential for adding bread to MREs (“meals ready to eat”). The sterilization technique might also be of use to address food shortages, by making it possible to keep stores of some foods fresh for longer periods of time.

Could giving bread a longer shelf life cut down on food waste?

The average American family throws out some 40 percent of the food it purchases, a total loss nationwide of $165 billion a year. In the U.K., 32 percent of bread bought is tossed and 4.4 million tons of food — much of that vegetables and fruits — is thrown away. 680,000 tons of this is “avoidable” bakery waste, 80 percent of which consists of packs of bread that have been opened but not finished.

The plastic wrapping most bread you find in supermarkets is a chief culprit. Bread remains mold-free for about ten days, says the BBC, but plastic hastens the growth of the fungus Rhizopus stolonifer, which leads to mold. The mechanization that led to the creation of such products as bland white Wonder Bread in the U.S. has also made such large quantities of relatively low-cost bread available that people tend to buy more than they need.

Mold on bread is certainly a visible sign that it is past its prime. The FDA can be said to “approve [of] outdated food,” says The Atlantic, in that expiration dates are actually “simply an indication of optimum quality as deemed by the manufacturer.” Many foods, such as canned ones, can be consumed sometime after “sell by” and “use by” dates.

Supermarkets throw away piles of goods every year, knowing that customers will not buy products perceived as out of date. Some of these “unsaleables” go to food banks, some to salvage centers; some end up in dumpsters. Restaurants are even worse, with the food they toss comprising 15 percent of all that ends up in landfill.

Microzap could change this. Is this sterilization technique a sign of progress or, rather, one revealing how very far we are from eating food in its natural state?

Related Care2 Coverage

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The Case For Eating Fruits and Vegetables

Grocery Chain Figures Out How to Stop Wasting Mountains of Food

 

Photo by rutio

322 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra3 years ago

Thank you Kristina, for Sharing this!

Erica B.
Erica B3 years ago

Hi Stephen! Right back at ya'...you are very cool!

Stephen S.
Stephen L3 years ago

Thanks for all your kind words, Erica. :) I have no way to send a * or you would surely have one.

Stephen S.
Stephen L3 years ago

Thanks, Erica. And welcome to a not very exclusive club, consisting those who Diane has called a name.

Diane L.
Diane L3 years ago

Ever get "Rhodes" bread? It's just dough, unbaked and in the frozen food section. I used to get it all the time and bake a loaf and between my daughter and I, we'd eat the entire loaf fresh from the oven so nothing left. That was a long time ago and haven't bought it in years, but just wondering, if one does bake their own bread, why not make more than can be baked at once and freeze the rest to bake later?

Diane L.
Diane L3 years ago

Cindy, normal microwaving doesn't affect the taste of bread, I don't think. Some varieties "nuke" better than others, and just adding a little container of water (about 1/8th C.) inside the MW will replenish the moisture that is lacking from being a bit stale. I get "outdated" bread every week from the local foodbank that can't be given away to humans, and it's marked "animal bread only", but some of it is perfectly fine to eat, in my opinion.......no mold, just a bit "other than" mushy soft fresh. After a few days, some of it becomes too hard to cut up for my horses, even though they will readily eat it, so to make it easier for ME, I put in the MW with a bit of water in a small cup for about 45 seconds, making it soft again.

Erica B.
Erica B3 years ago

I agree with you, Cindy. I've always frozen my bread, as well as other items that I won't be using immediately. I've been purchasing Ezekiel Bread for quite a while now, and the stores sell it in the frozen food section, since it is a sprouted wheat bread and goes bad fairly quickly at room temperature. So how bad can freezing be, right?

Diane L.
Diane L3 years ago

BTW, Erica, I also don't care why you've been "away", although I would not like to think it was because of your health issues. Please also do not insult my intelligence with the "being tired of the drama" thing. You have always contributed to the drama, yourself and seemed to be fed by it. I also know that most sites which are moderated do not permit anyone to post off topic and moderators simply delete such posts before they are read by anyone else. Care.2 isn't set up to be a chatty place to exchange idle conversation or joke around. Why would you even try to "go there"? Topics are to address causes or discuss current news that is a bit "off the front page" sometimes. This isn't Facebook or Twitter which are geared for such. Maybe they are more to your liking.

Cindy Rhodes
Cindy Rhodes3 years ago

it helps if you are going to buy that much in the first place, to put it in the fridge, & if you need to prolong the life span of your bread even further but can't finish it soon enough then put it in the freezer, & when you need it thaw it & warm it in the oven, tastes fresh again. Because I'm not convinced this microzap would be the best method.