"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.
An Associated Press reporter found the same. Though slightly warm from the microwaves, a piece of whole-grain white bread was soft and tasted like one that hadn't been zapped. Sixty-day-old bread was not available to taste.
Estimates from the Natural Resources Defense Council this year indicated that in 2008, in-store food losses in the US totaled an estimated 43 billion pounds – 10 percent of all foods supplied to retail outlets – most of which are perishables, including bread.
Unrefrigerated bread in plastic packaging will succumb to mold in about 10 days, so keeping mold at bay for 60 days presents a fresh proposition.
Not so fast, says Ruth MacDonald, professor and chair of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University. There are thousands of airborne mold spores everywhere, she said, adding that though bread producers might like the technology for storage and transportation, those spores are problematic at home.