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Understanding microwave ready meal heating guidelines

Addendum to Issue No. 1 January 2008


Recent reports on the quality of the foods that we eat and their effect on our fitness have prompted many manufacturers to review their labelling claims and recipes. In consequence, some may find it necessary to adapt their products. In such instances, the scale of changes that may need to be made so as to ensure these products comply with new health and nutrition expectations could significantly alter the balance of their ingredients. For example, an arbitrary reduction in salt can significantly affect a microwaveable product’s heating reaction.

On the face of it, when these products are adapted as described, it will seem a relatively straightforward task to test and alter the back-of-pack heating guidelines. Yet over the last decade the choice of microwave ovens has widened to include much higher and more inconsistent output power levels, often to the detriment of the food product. This situation has created unexpected and potentially hazardous heating problems. For instance, one test has shown that a well known type of product, heated for the supplier’s recommended time at an indicated power level, in a popular microwave oven, become so overheated that it not only ruined the product but also became an eruptive hazard. In another instance, when using a different oven model with the same indicated power level rating, the product did not reach a safe recommended serving temperature.

To familiarise food manufacturers and suppliers with the potential problems anticipated, GAMA Microwave Technology Limited, a company that has a long-term experience of calibrating microwave and thermal ovens on site for many well known household names, has set up a new “food industry information” section. It will offer free-of-charge training on the latest microwave food heating technology whilst on site calibrating clients’ food product evaluation ovens. The one hour programme; focussed on product development, home economics and quality audit functions, will explain the difficulties found when developing back-of-pack heating guidelines. It will explain that microwave ovens create energy, not heat, and that it is this interaction between the energy created and different types of food that results in a successfully heated product.

Hand out notes will support a comprehensive explanation of microwave food heating mechanisms and the potential difficulties when using modern microwave ovens, within food manufacturing or retailing NPD kitchen environments. They will include the effects of various additives, such as salt; overcoming product boil-out and food eruption problems; explaining packaging options such as susceptor heating films, foil containers and field modifying pack techniques.

For further information contact: E-mail: mail@gamaconsultants.com

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