LUBBOCK, Texas — Attention, bread shoppers: A Texas company could have the answer to some consumers’ unwelcome discovery that just-purchased loaves contain mold.
MicroZap Inc. claims its technology allows bread to stay mold-free for 60 days. The bread is bombarded with microwaves for about 10 seconds, which kills the mold spores, said chief executive officer Don Stull.
The process could eliminate bakers’ need for preservatives and ingredients used to mask preservatives’ flavor, as well as reduce food waste and increase bread’s shelf life, he said.
Researchers at Texas Tech University also see using the technology in bread made in developing countries, where there are fewer food safety standards and spoilage is a problem.
“It could help us provide an abundant food source for those in need,” said Mindy Brashear, director of the Lubbock university’s Center for Food Industry Excellence. The prospect of helping people in developing countries is what motivated the microbiology professor to help develop the technology over the last eight years.
After 60 days, researchers found the treated bread that remained packaged had the same mold content when compared to a freshly baked loaf, Stull said. In the end, though, he knows it comes down to consumers’ palates.
“The consumers saw no discernible quality difference in the breads,” Stull said of testers who found the treated bread’s taste and texture unchanged.
Unrefrigerated unopened bread in plastic packaging will succumb to mold in about 10 days, so keeping it at bay for 60 days presents a fresh proposition.
Researchers with the university tested the MicroZap on three different mold types on breads inside plastic bags with twist ties, and the microwaves destroyed each one.
But there are characteristics that the zapping won’t improve; it won’t keep bread from going stale or rancid.
MicroZap has no plans to package its own bread or operate a plant where bread is treated. A patent is pending on the technology.
The technology — an effort funded by $1.5 million from Texas’ Emerging Technology Fund — was initially intended to kill bacteria such as MRSA, a contagious bacterial infection that’s resistant to many commonly used antibiotics, and salmonella.