A new technology that can increase the shelf-life of food products by up to three times the normal period of time, while preserving their freshness and nutritional qualities, has been developed by Scottish researchers from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh together with Advanced Microwave Technologies Ltd (AMT).

The scientists have come up with a new microwave process, which is set to create great opportunities and could change the world of food processing, Queen Margaret University said in a press statement.

The method is in fact a mild form of pasteurization which enables products to remain fresh for much longer periods of time without compromising their nutritional qualities. Antioxidants are also preserved, as well as the natural taste of the food or drink. Through the technology, the amount of salt in the products can be lowered by up to 15 percent, the statement said.

The technology has already proved its value for Stirling company Get Juiced, which has created new jobs and doubled its production thanks to the innovation. The method, which is also highly energy-efficient, may soon be available to 100 food processing companies, the university said. AMT has already started talks to supply the technology to producers of black pudding and haggis in the north-eastern part of the country.

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The process takes seconds and involves first heating and then cooling the products. The method was initially devised by Dr. Yuriy Zadyraka and Douglas Armstrong from AMT who discovered that the process was killing any present bacteria instantly, while leaving nutrient levels unaffected. The expertise of scientists at Queen Margaret University in the fields of dietetics and nutritional and biological sciences has contributed significantly to the development of the technology. Armstrong commented that the machine can reduce the amount of food waste, while boosting results for processing companies.

With Britain's top priority for the food industry being safety, the machine is suitable for processing food and drink products because it has passed safety tests, as well as tests for quality and freshness of the product. Armstrong said that the full research report on the method and its implications for the food and drink industry will be released later this month.

Paddy Ryan, Get Juiced business manager, explained that company representatives could not believe their eyes when they saw the technology at Queen Margaret University for the first time, when it was pasteurizing scrambled eggs. Shortly after, it moved on to orange juice and pasteurized that too. However, it tasted just the same and it was hard to guess that it had gone through any processing at all, Ryan explained. The company added that the method has helped its products increase their shelf-life from eight to 28 days.

Another advantage of the machine is that it can handle liquids and foods of various textures equally well. It could also be used in regions affected by flood, drought or any other natural disaster, as it can decontaminate water, the company said.

Commenting on the discovery, Miriam Smith of Queen Margaret University said that the AMT machine has the potential to reform the entire food processing business.