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Military pizza: Combat ready pizza has a three-year shelf life

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Ever order a pizza on a Friday and accidentally leave it out on the counter overnight? If it’s a new “military” pizza, you can leave it sitting there for 156 straight Fridays – the new combat pizza has a shelf life of three years.

It’s the “holy grail of ready-to-eat meals,” says Fox News on Friday. Since 1981, the U.S. military has been providing lightweight, individual field rations, known as MREs – Meals Ready to Eat – to troops in combat when there is no mess hall or food facility available.

But American troops want pizza – a takeout staple and an iconic comfort food. So researchers at a U.S. military lab in Massachusetts are closing in on a self-sustaining pizza recipe that requires no refrigeration or cooking.

“You can basically take the pizza, leave it on the counter, packaged, for three years and it'd still be edible,” said Michelle Richardson, a food scientist at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Creating a pizza that would last longer than a bag of chips wasn’t easy. Moisture and acidity in the tomato sauce proved to be a challenge, as did creating a cheese and dough that would not allow bacteria to thrive. Countless “soggy” pies were scrapped, but finally, a breakthrough.

Scientists struck a balance between natural ingredients used as both humectants (substances used to keep things moist) and desiccants (substances used to keep things dry), and added iron filings to the package to absorb any air remaining in the pouch.

But the big question of course was – how does it taste?

Although it hasn’t been formally “field tested” yet, Jill Bates, who runs the lab at the Natick Center, described their military pizza creation as a pan pizza, with a crust that's a little moist and not super-crispy.

“It pretty much tastes just like a typical pan pizza that you would make at home and take out of the oven or the toaster oven,” she said. “The only thing missing from that experience would be it's not hot when you eat it. It's room temperature.”

David Accetta, a former Army lieutenant colonel and spokesman for the lab, also weighed in on the taste.

“In a lot of cases, when you are cold and tired and hungry, having a meal that's something that you like and you would get at home, it increases your morale — and we consider that to be a force multiplier,” Accetta said.

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