URI team gives military a mouthful of tasty rations
KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 22, 1999 -- Since an army marches on its stomach,
it's good to know that those bellies will have some good tasting food in
them, thanks to the expertise of a URI graduate student and a URI alumnus.
We're not talking just the U.S. Army, but all the military branches.
And we're not talking canned army rations like beef stew. We're speaking
about pocket sandwiches like beef burritos, nacho-flavored beef, barbecued
chicken, sausage and pepperoni and that old-stand-by peanut butter and jelly.
With newly-applied technology, these foods can hang around for a few years
Although the Army already had the technology to keep today's bread from
becoming tomorrow's penicillin, keeping sandwich fillings bacteria free
presented a challenge.
That's where Michelle Richardson of Providence, a URI food science
graduate student and URI alumnus Dr. Andre Senecal, come in. They are two-thirds
of a three-member Mobility Enhancing Ration Components team, employed at
the U.S. Army Soldier Biological and Chemical Command in Natick, Mass. Working
with the third member, Jack Briggs, the team used an innovative adaptation
of intermediate moisture food technology to form the sandwich ingredients.
The technology is the careful balancing of moisture, pH, and water binding
that gives food soft, moist qualities without promoting microbiological
growth. "It's an intermediate moisture technology. Think raisin,"
"Another way to explain it is to say we set up hurdles to stop the
growth of bacteria," says Senecal who earned his Ph.D. from URI in
1991 as part of the Army's long-term training program, the same program
Richardson is using to earn her master's degree. "The bacteria spends
so much energy trying to get over one hurdle after another that it slows
down and stops."
The team was recently recognized for its innovative work. It was presented
an Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer from the Federal Laboratory
Consortium for Technology Transfer in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The newly-developed sandwiches are filled with advantages, according
to Richardson and Senecal.
- They are safe, even after sitting on the shelf for years.
- Soldiers can identify the food.
- The sandwiches don't require a utensil and come in pouch.
- They don't have to heated or have water added to them.
- Soldiers can eat them on the run whether in the arctic or the jungle.
- The sandwiches are tasty. They have been field tested in the largest
sense of the word.
- The sandwiches won't be ready for military consumption until 2001 to
However, major food companies that have Cooperative Research and Development
Agreements (CRADAs) with the U.S. Army are already eyeing the commercial
aspect. For instance, the Army is working with Sara Lee on a bagel filled
with cream cheese.
"The Army shares the technology through CRADAs so not to have military
unique items which helps keep the cost down," says the 32-year-old
graduate student who worked for the Army at Natick since graduating from
URI in 1990. It is at this site that the Army does all food research and
development for the military.
This summer, Richardson is working with Dr. Garth Rand, URI professor
of food science, and her Army team partner Senecal on biosenors that detect
pathogens in food as part of her thesis.
"It's a good fit. My job is interesting because it's something different
all the time," says Richardson.
Food science is obviously something both she and Senecal can sink their
For More Information: Jan Sawyer,