Food and Wine
August 14, 2017 3:00 pm

Amazon isn’t stopping with its acquisition of Whole Foods. The online retailer seems determined to take over the grocery world, especially with news it could soon sell ready-to-eat meals that don’t need refrigeration, made from tech meant for the military.

Amazon has told Reuters it could sell the prepared meals as soon as next year. The dishes—think: full meals like beef stew and vegetable frittata—wouldn’t need to be kept cold before or during shipping, making them easy to stockpile and send to you.

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The tech that would keep Amazon’s food fresh without refrigeration is currently used by the U.S. military. It’s called microwave assisted thermal sterilization or MATS, and was created by scientists at Washington State University. Here’s how it works: food is placed in sealed packages in pressurized water, then zapped at a microwave frequency of 915MHz, a process that kills food pathogens and bacteria while preserving the foods’ nutrient profile, taste, and even texture. When treated with this method, food can be stored without refrigeration for a year.

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If Amazon adopts the tech, its prepared meals would wrap into its AmazonFresh service, which has been operating for about 10 years, the newswire reports.

Word of Amazon’s interest in the tech came out after the online retailer invited 915 Labs, which now runs the MATS program, to Seattle to discuss the tech’s potential. Amazon has also met with a team at Washington State University, Reuters reports. In March, the first-ever Industrial Microwave Alliance meeting was held, and teams from Amazon—as well as the university’s researchers and others—were present.

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Juming Tang, chair of Washington State University’s biological systems engineering department and a key developer of the technology, who met with Amazon, told the newswire that “Amazon just started this. They need to deliver meals to homes, [and] they’re hiring food people like crazy.”

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