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#Learnhow modified atmosphere packaging extends the shelf life of food

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Everyone knows that food does not stay fresh forever. Milk turns sour, bread goes mouldy, meat develops a brown colour and an unpleasant odour. A number of factors cause food spoilage. Oxygen in the air can cause a process of decay called oxidation.
One of the main causes of the spoilage of food is the growth of microbes such as bacteria, yeasts and mould that are present all around us. These microbes feed and grow on the food product, causing it to go bad. The appearance of food can also change over time when exposed to air. Fresh meat turns brown after a while because of interaction with oxygen.
There are a number of ways to slow down these processes of spoilage and to keep food attractive and edible for as long as possible. These include simple refrigeration or treatments such as pickling, curing with salt or by adding artificial preservatives.
However, to keep food fresh for as long as possible without additives is a challenge, and one key technology for achieving this goal is to seal the food product in a package which contains a mixture of natural gases in carefully controlled proportions that significantly slow down the process of decay by inhibiting processes of oxidation and the growth of microbes. This is the essence of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP): the atmosphere in which the food is packaged is modified so that spoilage is markedly reduced and the shelf life of the product is increased.
At LINPAC Packaging we have created a wide range of packing solutions which incorporate MAP which mean consumers can store food in the fridge for longer without compromising food safety and significantly extending the life of the product and reducing food waste.
LINPAC is one of only a few food packaging companies to manufacture both films and trays for MAP applications and our split pack design are an excellent showcase of our expertise in this area.
Alan Davey, our Director of Innovation, says: “The amount of food wasted every year is still too high. It is estimated that each person within the EU wastes 179kg every year, totalling in excess of 89 million tonnes. That figure is expected to rise by 40% by 2020 if no further action is taken to minimise the amount we throw away.”
“Clearly, while food waste remains such a major problem for the environment, it is essential for all the links in the food supply chain to play their part in preventing food waste. At LINPAC we are acutely aware of our role in helping consumers to minimise waste by designing innovative MAP packaging solutions which enable them to only select the food they want to use and in maximising the shelf life of stored products in their homes.”
The MAP techniques used in the packaging manufacturing reduce spoilage and contamination and enable a longer storage period by extending the shelf life of the packed foodstuff.  The meat will remain fresh and attractive, and ultimately safer, for longer.
Using the correct MAP conditions, the shelf life of fresh poultry can typically be increased from around four to seven days to between 16 and 21 days under refrigeration, while that of red meat can increase from two to four days to between five and eight days, depending on pack design. Where cooked or processed meats are packed in modified atmosphere packaging, shelf life increases from two to four days to between two to five weeks.
The most popular range of films for MAP applications available from LINPAC is LINtop® HB, a high quality performance barrier film ideal for high gas barrier lidding. It is designed specifically to work in conjunction with the LINPAC range of rigid and foam trays. Anti-fog properties and maximum transparency are trademark features which offer the retailer good shelf presence and enhanced product presentation.
LINtop HB is made from the lowest gauge of film necessary to meet environmental requirements and is suitable for all types of top sealing machinery, helping packers to offer retailers a competitively priced packaging solution guaranteed to extend shelf life.
“These packs have proved very popular with both consumers and retailers,” says Alan. “The benefits they offer to both parties are clear. Awareness of the food waste issue is low, particularly by householders and we believe that these packs will help consumers become more aware and subtly help to change their behaviour to reduce the amount of food they throw away.”

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