WSU Scientist Wins Top Tech Award for Microwave Food Preservation System

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University scientist Juming Tang and the WSU Microwave Sterilization Consortium have won top honors from the Institute of Food Technologists for a groundbreaking new food preservation system.

The 2010 IFT Research and Development Award was given to Tang, a professor of biological systems engineering at WSU; C. Patrick Dunne from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center; Douglas Hahn from Hormel Foods Corp.; Kenny Lum from the Seafood Products Association; and Evan Turek from Kraft Foods Inc. The consortium also includes The Ferrite Company, Rexam PLC, Graphic Packaging and Ocean Beauty Seafoods.

“This award speaks to the revolutionary change this technology brings to food preservation,” said Ralph Cavalieri, director of the WSU Agricultural Research Center. “It is important across a range of applications from feeding astronauts on long-term space missions or soldiers in the field to transporting and storing food to areas of the world where people are unable to produce enough food locally to feed themselves.”

The team’s Microwave Sterilization Process technology immerses the packaged food in pressurized hot water while simultaneously heating it with microwaves at a frequency of 915 MHz — a frequency that penetrates food more deeply than the 2450 MHz used in home microwave ovens. This combination eliminates food pathogens and spoilage microorganisms in just five to eight minutes and produces safe foods with much higher quality than conventionally processed ready-to-eat products.

The Institute of Food Technologists is an international, non-profit professional organization for the advancement of food science and technology. It is the largest of food science/engineering organizations in the world, encompassing 22,000 members worldwide.