Long life bread: a way to avoid waste?

Jim Champion

Normally bread will last for only 10 days before it goes mouldy, but new technology developed in the US may soon change this.

Bread is one of the most highly consumed food products in the UK, but it is also one of the most wasted. According to Defra figures, around three million tonnes of bakery products were bought in the UK in 2010 and bread amounts to around 11% of our total daily energy intake. According to a report produced by the department in 2010, 32% of all bread was wasted in 2008.

The average family in Britain throws away food amounting to £680 a year while food costs are rising. According to the British Retail Consortium food prices have risen by 3.1% in the last year. The price of bread is set to increase due to a drought in the US forcing up the price of grain especially damaging since US corn makes up around half the world’s exports of the cereal.

But could new technology see an end to this?

Microzap, based in Texas, has come up with a way of killing the bacteria in bread which leads to the mould. The device they used was originally created to kill MRSA and salmonella but scientists found it could kill the mould spores in bread in around 10 seconds.

Bread which was left out for 60 days was found to have the same mould content as when it was first treated. The principle is similar to that used in a microwave. There may be added benefits as the new treatment would avoid the addition of some chemicals in the bread-making process. Preservatives are added to bread to make it last longer but other substances must then be used to mask the taste of these chemicals.

So far the technology has attracted commercial interests but there are concerns that it would make production costs more expensive and about whether shoppers will be happy to buy bread that could last for up to 60 days.

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