Two separate investments totaling more than $11 million in microwave energy-based food processing technology will be used for research to improve the quality of ready-to-eat meals.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded a $4 million grant to Washington State University to establish a research center. WSU’s Center of Excellence will work to accelerate the technology transfer to mainstream commercial markets.

Also, the Australian government awarded WSU $7.2 million to adopt microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS) technology. WSU and industry partner 915 Labs will provide the system to Australia’s Ministry of Defence.

MATS and microwave-assisted pasteurization systems (MAPS) use a combination of microwave heat and a hot water tunnel to rapidly heat packaged food to sterilization or pasteurization temperatures and hold it there for a minimum amount of time before quickly cooling it down. Regents professor Juming Tang and his team in the WSU’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering developed the technologies and processing methods. Both technologies are licensed and sold through Denver-based 915 Labs.

The company’s MATS/MAPS systems are in operation at several locations around the United States, and major consumer food companies in Singapore and India have recently purchased systems. Two MATS food products filed by WSU and one by AmeriQual Foods have received U.S. Food and Drug Administration acceptance, paving the way for commercialization in the United States.

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