Resource Efficient Innovations Database (REID)

New microwave sterilisation technique has potential to extend shelf life

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New microwave sterilisation technique has potential to extend shelf life
A rapid sterilisation technique for the shelf stable food industry being tested in the US is expected to deliver improved food quality and longer shelf life.
In Development – The first trial installation is available for evaluation in the US. Full commercial availability of the equipment is planned for the second financial quarter of 2013.

Shelf life extension

Product Categories

Relevant Materials
Not Applicable

Relevant Packaging Formats
Not Applicable

Supply Chain Phase
Filling, Processing


A developer of microwave food sterilisation technology has launched its first commercial system after fifteen years in development. The Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilisation (MATS)-B device delivers rapid sterilisation for shelf stable food products. The technique can also be used for chilled and frozen ready to eat products.

It is claimed that the technology will deliver food that looks and tastes better than canned food, maintaining its nutritional value and allowing manufacturers to achieve higher throughput and lower production costs compared to traditional methods.
The technique incorporates the only microwave technology accepted by the US Food and Drug Administration for food sterilisation. So far it has received approval for use with chicken and dumplings, salmon and noodles in a cream sauce, and mashed potatoes.
The approach immerses packaged food in pressurised hot water while heating it with microwaves at a frequency of 915MHz. This rapidly eliminates food pathogens and spoilage microorganisms and results in food of higher quality in terms of nutrients, taste and texture compared to conventionally processed ready to eat products. Throughput depends on the product being sterilised but the manufacturers indicate that it is around a 15-20 minute cycle.
The first kit, produced by MATSpack, is being trialled by US food processing company AmeriQual. Food manufacturers who wish to understand the systems benefits will be able to visit the facility and test the technology. Eight food manufacturers who helped fund the project, including Nestle, General Mills, Pepsi and Del Monte, will be conducting research with the machine over the next year.
As yet, the team has not studied extended shelf life implications but this is planned. The developers are looking at creating specific packaging which could enhance the process.
The content in this entry has been obtained from publicly available information sources only (e.g. press releases, website and trade press articles) and is subject to completion of a validation process with the technology supplier.

Potential Benefits

The principal focus of this work is to improve food quality through an improved sterilisation technique. However, there is also potential that this technique could deliver extended shelf life and thereby reduce wastage of high end ready to eat products. This will be the subject of further investigation during the trials in 2012-2013.

Intellectual Property

The technology was developed by Washington State University and is licenced to Food Chain Safety, which in partnership with Printpack created MATSpack to commercialise the technology.

Consultant View

Although the initial focus of technology trials is on improved food quality the potential of this innovation to reduce food waste in high end ready to eat products through improved shelf life is apparent. Food manufacturers in the shelf stable sector should maintain a watching brief on developments.

It should be recognised that this is only one approach. There are many different technologies available or in research and development phases which aim to extend product shelf-life. For example, packaging solutions can inhibit microbial growth. Readers interested in alternative approaches should search the REID database for relevant technologies including modified atmosphere packaging, antimicrobial materials and use of phages to inhibit food spoilage.

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