Chilled ready meals can now stay ‘fresh’ for up to 90 days, thanks to an innovative pasteurisation method developed by Swiss boffins at Creative New Food.

Creative has claimed consumers can’t tell the difference between freshly prepared food and the 90 day-old stuff. And the technology has already been rolled out by a Dutch manufacturer to make ready meals containing mussels.

The ‘Micropast’ method, which combines microwave technology and steam pressure cooking, is “rapid, gentle and energy saving”, according to Creative.

A plastic tray is filled, sealed, then sent through a microwave tunnel, which heats the ingredients in the meal to 95C. This cooks and pasteurises the tray’s contents and the resulting steam generates even heat distribution among the ingredients.

Once the tray exits the tunnel, the steam is removed by a gas injection, preventing any loss of liquid from the food and preserving “texture and colour intensity”.

The combination of the two techniques had created a “quality leap” in the technology for preserving food, Creative said.