Determining Shelf Life of Ready-to-Eat Macaroni and Cheese in High Barrier and Oxygen Scavenger Packaging Sterilized via Microwave-Assisted Thermal Sterilization


Ready-to-eat macaroni and cheese filled in novel oxygen scavenger and metal oxide–coated high-barrier polymer packages were processed in pilot scale 915-MHz microwave-assisted thermal sterilization system (MATS). Also, aluminum foil packages were processed in Allpax retort system to compare packaging performance. Physicochemical and sensory attributes of macaroni and cheese packaged in different oxygen and water vapor transmission rates were evaluated and stored for 6 months at 37.8 °C. Findings showed oxygen transmission rate (OTR) increase by 2–7 times and water vapor transmission rate (WVTR) increase by 2.5–24 times after MATS processing. OTR of polymeric packaging had no significant effect on vitamin A and vitamin E, shear force, and food color. Comparable results between polymeric and aluminum foil packaging were observed throughout the shelf life. This indicates that oxygen scavenger and high-barrier packaging with OTRs ~ 0.03–0.34 cc/m2 day and WVTRs ~ 0.62–7.19 g/m2 day can be used for ready-to-eat meals with extended shelf life for soldiers and astronauts.

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The authors would like to thank Dr. Zhongwei Tang for his technical help. In addition, the authors would like to thank Kuraray America, Inc. (Houston, TX, USA), Toppan Printing Co, LTD. (Japan) and Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation (Japan) for providing the packaging materials.


This work was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Research grants #2016-67017-24597 and #2016-68003-24840, and Hatch project #1016366.

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Correspondence to Shyam S. Sablani.

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Patel, J., Al-Ghamdi, S., Zhang, H. et al. Determining Shelf Life of Ready-to-Eat Macaroni and Cheese in High Barrier and Oxygen Scavenger Packaging Sterilized via Microwave-Assisted Thermal Sterilization. Food Bioprocess Technol 12, 1516–1526 (2019).

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  • Oxygen scavenger packaging
  • Oxygen transmission rate
  • Water vapor transmission rate
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Shelf life