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Jul 11 / scott.campbell

A Closeup for Decaying Food

Food preservation is a consistent theme on our blog – how to make food that tastes good last a long time.  That’s what I love about cured meats – they taste good (if done right), but they are the product of thousands of years of informal testing so they last a long time.  A coworker pointed me to a fascinating program from the BBC that looks at the opposite of preservation.  It’s called “After Life: The Strange Science of Decay”. Finding it available online, I started watching it.  I am glad that scientists have yet to discover a method for transmitting odors through a wire, because many of the pieces of rotting food they filmed (over 2 months) would’ve certainly been ripe.

Soon, though, the show turned to a technology leader in food preservation: the US Armed Forces.  They maintain a research center in Natick, MA that is tasked with developing MREs that last forever and taste good.  Michelle Richardson, a food technologist there, makes an appearance to explain the science behind a high-tech sandwich that lasts for 3 years.  Although I didn’t hear the words “water activity”, I did hear “humectant”, which is rare enough.  A humectant is an ingredient that lowers the water activity in a food, such as sugar or salt.  Michelle, who is an AQUALAB customer I’ve met many times, explained that humectants and oxygen scavengers give their MRE sandwich a long shelf life.  It’s great to see exposure for food preservation technology, even if the BBC program isn’t one you want to watch during dinner.

Download The Food Manufacturer’s Complete Guide to Water Activity—>


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