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Sats’ new tech cuts waste from airplane meals

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New technology part of Sats' $25m investment in extended kitchen facility

After every flight, extra meals end up in the bin.

To reduce waste, Sats, a major player in the food industry and Changi Airport's main airline caterer, has invested in new technology to extend the shelf life of cooked food. This means that those extra meals can be served at a later date instead of being junked.

Fresh meals that are immediately chilled can now be stored for up to 90 days without added preservatives, instead of the typical 24 to 48 hours.

It is also possible for ready-to-eat-meals, including braised chicken rice, chicken briyani, beef stroganoff, pasta alfredo and black pepper chicken udon to be stored, without refrigeration, for between six and 24 months.

This can be done with no adverse impact on food safety, nutrition or taste, Sats stressed, adding that shelf life is extended with pasteurisation and sterilisation.

Pasteurisation is the process of treating food with heat for a short time to reduce microbial growth. With sterilisation, heat and pressure are applied to eliminate all forms of bacteria and enzyme activity.

Sats showcased the new technology yesterday at the launch of its extended kitchen facility at Changi North, which is part of a $25 million investment.

The kitchen can now produce up to 60,000 meals a day, compared with 45,000 previously, Sats told Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and other guests at the event.

Sats has another kitchen at Changi Airport, located next toTerminal 4.

Professor William Chen, director of the food science and technology programme at Nanyang Technological University, told The Straits Times that food spoils when the environment is conducive for microbial growth and oxidation reaction.

It causes a change in the nutritional value of food products and how they taste.


However, if food products are properly processed and stored, they can be safely stored for several years, he said.

"For in-flight ready-to-eat meals, it would be desirable to separate watery portions, for example, sauces, from solid portions.

"This is because water is needed for microbes to proliferate, causing food spoilage," Prof Chen added.

Scoot, the budget arm of Singapore Airlines (SIA), is the first carrier to adopt the new technology, and will feature some of the meals from June.

SIA has no plans to do the same at this time.

Its spokesman told The Straits Times: "We are open to exploring potential opportunities in future."

At the Changi North facility, Sats is also boosting efficiency with new equipment such as giant auto-fryers.

With the equipment, it takes half an hour to cook 60kg of fried rice or noodles, compared with 90 minutes previously.

The firm is also harnessing technology to simulate production lines so that resource and manpower planning can be optimised.

Mr Alex Hungate, president and chief executive officer of Sats, said: "Instead of eating manufactured food and snacks that might include added preservatives, now everyone can eat meals they love, conveniently and safely, with minimal food waste."