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U of Fla. awarded $4 million to improve military food distribution

U of Fla. awarded $4 million to improve military food distribution

The University of Florida's Center for Food Distribution and Retailing has obtained a one-year $4 million federal contract to work with the Army on ways to maintain the nutrition and freshness of military rations while in transit.

   University scientists will work with the Army's Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center in Natick, Mass., which has already been conducting research on radio frequency identification tags to measure and record environmental temperatures and calculate shelf life of combat rations.

   Military food-storage temperatures in Iraq and Kuwait average 100' Fahrenheit, with some containers exceeding 150 degrees. The heat can destroy rations worth millions of dollars and emergency replacement of unusable food can significantly add to the cost, said Stephen Moody, a team leader in the Defense Department's Combat Feeding Directorate.

   Moody said improved RFID technology could lead to development of an automated inspection process. It would enable personnel monitor temperatures even at the individual pallet level from remote locations, calculate food shelf life based on its environmental history, and quickly issue rations nearing the end of their shelf life, he added.

   Jean-Pierre Edmond, co-director of university center, said the researchers will replicate Mideast storage conditions in the laboratory. 'Since we're evaluating conditions in transport, we can simulate them exactly and look at the condition of the product,' he said.

   The project will later look at other environments and issues such as sensors that can detect food spoilage, Edmond said. Researchers hope to secure funding for a five-year study.

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