An American company has recently developed a technique that can make bread stay mould-free for 60 days.
The company Microzap, which uses a sophisticated microwave to kill spores that cause the problem, claims it could significantly reduce the amount of bread wasted each year, which in the UK is as high as 32% of all loaves purchased.
Bread manufacturers have shown interest in the device, but are worried it could add extra costs in an industry where margins are already very tight. There is also a concern that consumers might not buy bread that lasts for so long.
Chief executive of the company, Dan Stull, believes that the device could also be used on other food products ranging from jalapenos to pet food.
It also has the potential to change the quality of bread ‘in other ways’, as manufacturers often add a lot of preservatives to fight mould, and are forced to mask the taste with chemicals. Using the microwave would allow companies to avoid these additives.
We asked Labs participants whether they would buy bread that lasts 60 days instead of 10 and other food that lasts much longer than usual.
Here’s what we found…
Most Labs participants would not buy bread that lasts this long.
However, many would choose to buy longer-lasting bread and other food, mainly to reduce wastage. Saving money and time would be another reason they would choose to buy it.
Click the headings below to see the summary of Labs participants' views, as well as their comments.
Participants who would not buy longer lasting bread
Most participants said they would not purchase bread that lasts six times longer. One of the main reasons for this was not knowing what has been added to it, and not being able to trust its contents. Many participants assumed it would be full of preservatives.
“I would not trust it. I would have no reliable information about chemicals in it or processes (remember food manufacturers bubbling hydrogen through vegetable fats!) used, in this case, to make it last longer” John H, Tring
“Preservatives! Additional quantities of chemicals in food” Telman, Birmingham
“It would have to be full of artificial preservatives etc., to last that long - natural bread (that goes off) simply tastes better” Anon
“I prefer bread which has few or no preservatives” Martha, Oxford
“It means we are messing with natural flavours and benefits of food” Pauline, Walsall
“Food that isn't fit for bugs to grow on isn't fit for people to eat, either” Mike J, Leics.
“How can it last so long without affecting the flavour? It would have to be full of preservatives thus being bad for our health” Anon
Others said that food that lasts for this long is unnatural, and that is why they would refuse to buy it.
“I don't care what the scientists say; it is not natural to keep bread for 60 days! How would people KNOW how old it was? How would Trading Standards be able to test for selling 'out of date' bread. No-brainer as far as I'm concerned!” Jude, Bedford
“Not natural. Food is full of goodness; enriching nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and it goes bad because other things (like bacteria) beat us to the punch. I don't like the idea of making food that doesn't appeal to bacteria, can't be full of goodness” Ray G, Sheffield
Many participants said they prefer fresh bread that has not been ‘engineered’.
“Quality bread should be made and eaten daily” Anon
“I would be very concerned about what was in the product. In any case I like freshly baked bread thanks” TheoH
“You can't beat the flavour of bread that is warm out of the oven” Anon
“I think fresh natural food is the desirable choice; I don't trust foods that have been engineered other than by evolution. Fresh is best! And that's not a synthesised fresh” CJC, North Yorks
“Unless we are living in a siege situation I prefer my food to be as fresh as possible” Lesley, Leicestershire
“There must be additives or some manufacturing process to enable this. I prefer my bread freshly baked with the very minimum of additives/preservatives” Anon
Some participants said they would not purchase bread that lasts this long because they make their own.
“I think most bread in Britain is very poor quality and we make our own. Just look at the ingredients before you eat. If it has anything other than flour, water, butter/fat, sugar, salt, milk and of course yeast, do not eat it. We have found it impossible to buy proper white bread so make our own” Jn
“I'd rather bake my own. And what's the point? Who doesn't shop more than once in 60 days?” Anon
“I currently bake my own bread, not because of cost but because I enjoy it, and will continue to do so for as long as I am able. I bake what I want when I need it; longevity of product is therefore irrelevant” Albie, South Wales
Other participants said they freeze bread, so they do not deal with the issue of mould or waste.
“I never waste bread as I freeze it. I am allergic to wheat and so only buy bread for my child. I would feel wrong buying bread that is not fresh for a child” Anon
“It will be filled with even more nasty chemicals, why not freeze instead and take out as much as you want at a time” Tracie, Somerset
“Put the bread in the freezer!” Anon
“Bread can be frozen and used as required, toasted straight from freezer or defrosted overnight/microwaved as needed. Bread is expensive enough without adding further expense to a basic food item and adding even more chemicals to it” Anon
“I can't see the point. Surely once the wrapper is opened the bread will have to be consumed in a short time. We can already freeze bread if we want to keep a supply on hand instead of giving kitchen space to a loaf waiting to be eaten before 60 days expires” Anon
“I normally keep 2-3 loaves of bread in the freezer - thus maintaining the advantages of nutritious ingredients and low cost - which, with the purchase date applied with a magic marker, ensures that there's no wastage in our house. Simples!” Ross, Guildford
“I believe we should eat more unprocessed foods. If a loaf stays fresh for 60 days it will have been through a process that is certainly not 'natural'. Everyone has a freezer. Let's encourage people to keep spare frozen loaves and then there is no need to have loaf that lasts that long” Anon
“I don't have wasted bread. I buy fresh bread as needed and keep reserves in the freezer. I don't fancy my bread being messed about with” Jean Roche, St. Austell Cornwall
Participants who would buy bread that lasts 60 days instead of 10
Many participants said that if it tasted as good as ‘normal’ bread and was of acceptable standard, they would purchase it.
Julian H, Wimbledon
“As long as it stays fresh as well then I would gladly purchase bread lasting 60 days as the majority of the loaves I currently buy end up going stale and getting thrown away before I've even had half of them” Tom, Swindon
“I would obviously have to try it first. If the bread was of an acceptable standard then there is no reason not to. However 60 days seems excessive, a few weeks would be fine. If however the quality of the bread suffered significantly as a result of the new manufacturing process, I would stick to traditionally made bread” GD, Warwickshire
“It depends, of course. If the long-life bread tastes worse after 5 days than the original bread, then I don't want it. We need more access to artisan bread in the UK, and supermarkets should be forced to stock it in competition with the usual pap” Anon
“All too often our bread goes mouldy before we can eat it all, meaning we have to throw it away, especially in warmer weather. So long as it does not detrimentally affect the quality and taste of the bread I see it as a good thing” Rick, Surrey
People would choose to purchase longer lasting bread as it would be more convenient - save time and money. Many participants drew importance to reducing food waste.
“Because it will reduce the frequency of trips to the supermarket and food waste. We can't eat a loaf of bread in 3 days and resent having to buy foods in smaller, relatively more expensive packs/quantities” Anon
“Assuming the product is palatable it will save waste for the benefit of all and save the individual money” Anon
“Purely convenience. Reduces waste” Anon
“I'd buy it in a flash. Waste is a massive problem for all western countries. Less waste means lower food costs which will keep inflation down. I can't see a downside” Anon
Some participants said they would buy long-lasting bread if it was healthier and had fewer additives.
“If it has less chemicals and additives such as preservatives etc., I would be interested” Anon
“I see from the microwaving process that it could eliminate the need for chemicals and additives, as long as this process is purer, then I would certainly be interested” Lynda, Southend
“If it is safe, and has no added chemicals I would buy it as it would prevent waste and it would work out cheaper in the long run. Bread rarely lasts 10 days in a centrally heated flat anyway, it goes mouldy in 4 or 5 days” Anon
Some student participants said they would definitely purchase it as it would reduce the amount of money they spend on food as well as waste.
“As a student, it is rare that I will use an entire loaf of bread before it has gone off. Buying bread that lasts for 60 days would be a lot less hassle and save me and many others [from] throwing out bread that has gone mouldy” Anon
“As a student I need to make sure that the little money I do have go as far as possible, so if there is a way to make food last longer this will obviously significantly reduce the amount of food that I waste and therefore save money. Also I care about the environment, this will reduce waste therefore food miles and the amount of packaging that will eventually end up at land fill” George, Glasgow
Participants who were not sure whether they would buy bread that lasts six times longer
Many participants said they would consider switching to longer lasting bread, but they would need to know more about the product (or try it to know the taste) before consuming it.
“Idea is good but I always worry about 'side effects' to us and on the environment; but this method sounds good as it increases product life and removes the horrible chemicals our food has become contaminated with. Would need to learn more but the brief description was very positive” Ian H, Warlingham
“To be able to say yes or no I'll need to try it first! If I like what it tastes after 10 days I would buy... Otherwise no!” IMI, London
“I would want to know exactly what chemicals are being used to create such a long preservation and exactly what effect those chemicals are likely to have on my body and the bodies of other people to whom I would be likely to feed such 60 day bread, BEFORE I considered purchasing such” Ruth, South-East
“I'd need to know more about it” Anon
“I need more information to make a decision” Pat, Cheshire