Army secretary tastes what's cookin' at Natick
Department of Defense Combat Feeding Director Gerald Darsch (right) and team leader Kathy Evangelos demonstrate technology advances in food science for Secretary of the Army John McHugh March 15 at Fort Belvoir, Va.

FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Soldiers are eating better with help from new technologies. That was the message Army scientists delivered to the Army's civilian leader during a visit to research and development facilities here March 15.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh listened to U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering CommandAca,!a,,cs Soldier systems center representatives discuss new advances in food technology.

Aca,!A"We have the awesome responsibility and accountability to sustain and fuel the Defense DepartmentAca,!a,,cs most flexible and adaptable weapons platform, and that is the individual Warfighter,Aca,!A? said DoD Combat Feeding Director Gerald Darsch. Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre investing in a continuous process improvement program to take care of todayAca,!a,,cs Warfighter.Aca,!A?

Darsch told the secretary how Natick has pioneered the development of new food processing technologies. Aca,!A"These processes have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration over the last six to eight months,Aca,!A? he said.

One new technique to extend shelf life and improve food quality is a high-pressure process. Instead of using high heat to stabilize products, scientists apply elevated pressure to kill bacteria that make food go bad. Heat detracts from the quality of food. Minimizing heat and keeping the original qualities keeps food fresh longer and improves quality.

Aca,!A"Potential benefits to the Warfighter are tremendous,Aca,!A? said Jeremy Whitsitt, program outreach coordinator. Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs like night and day. It looks fresh, tastes fresh, and has is stable for a long period of time.Aca,!A?

Whitsitt said the second advanced process is microwave sterilization, which adds to shelf life and maintains food quality. Aca,!A"Natick is pushing the envelope and spearheading this technology by getting FDA approval,Aca,!A? he said.

The Army is in the early stages of using food processed with this new technology.

Aca,!A"We can now give Warfighters components that are shelf stable and have better color, odor, flavor, texture and appearance,Aca,!A? Darsch told the secretary.

Aca,!A"One of the messages that I always try and communicate is the science of food,Aca,!A? said Kathy Evangelos, Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate team leader. Evangelos also presented new food advances to the ArmyAca,!a,,cs senior leader.

Aca,!A"You can only communicate so much in seven minutes,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"Food can be perceived as being very pedestrian. We are in fact an acquisition program like everyone else, but we happen to have the commodity for which everyone is an expert, and everyoneAca,!a,,cs got their own opinion.Aca,!A?

Evangelos said the Natick philosophy boils down to pleasing the customer.

Aca,!A"Because of all the science we can put in the food, in the packaging, in the materials that go into the packaging, in its safety, if a Warfighter is not going to eat it then it does him or her no benefit whatsoever,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"WhatAca,!a,,cs most important is getting it into the field, and our business philosophy is Warfighter recommended, Warfighter tested, Warfighter approved. Nothing goes in a ration unless itAca,!a,,cs had input from a Warfighter.Aca,!A?

Explaining the advances in food technology to the secretary, Darsch also said his team is always looking for ways to be more efficient.

Aca,!A"One of the things we just did is take what used to be the 1/8 ounce bottle of Tabasco sauce," Darsch told McHugh. "ItAca,!a,,cs very cute, but the fact is, this bottle costs 16 cents, the product in it costs about half a penny. Aca,!A"We were able to work with industry to come up with a pouch that the Tabasco sauce wonAca,!a,,ct eat its way through, and we actually now have that pouch, itAca,!a,,cs still branded, but it saves the American taxpayer $850,000 a year by converting to something like this. We think thatAca,!a,,cs a winner.Aca,!A?

Evangelos said they hoped to communicate how Natick food scientists and researchers are part of the materiel enterprise. Aca,!A"We involve all of our partners, including the industry who produces a lot of these terrific products, from the very beginning.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"ProofAca,!a,,cs in the pudding,Aca,!A? Darsch told the secretary as he offered him a bite of eggs. Aca,!A"Would you like to try it'Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"Not bad,Aca,!A? McHugh said. Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cm surprised.Aca,!A?

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Page last updated Tue March 16th, 2010 at 12:17