Modified Atmosphere Packaging – A fresh and wholesome presentation
Protective atmosphere enables fresh and minimally processed packaged food products to maintain visual, textural and nutritional appeal. The controlled MAP environment enables food packaging to provide an extended shelf life without requiring the addition of chemical preservatives or stabilizers.
Processors and marketers of food products rely on Modified Atmosphere Packaging to assure fresh and flavorful products that continually meet the consumer’s expectation for brand quality, consistency, freshness and in-stock availability.
More information is also available on www.modifiedatmospherepackaging.com
What is Modified Atmosphere Packaging?
Modified Atmosphere Packaging is an optimal blend of pure oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen within a high barrier or permeable package. A finely adjusted and carefully controlled gas blend is developed to meet the specific respiration needs for each packaged food product.
Plastic films, foils and other packaging materials that demonstrate specified gas permeability properties and/or water vapor permeability properties are selected for use. These high barrier substrates become MAP Packages after they are formed into trays, lid stock or bags and filled with a select blend of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen environmental gasses.
Packaging films are selected to match the characteristics and needs of the food product. Film permeability, water vapor transmission rates and sealing characteristics need to be measured and tested at film selection and again at package converting and product fill stages, since the ability of a film to handle MAP performance characteristics may vary within each stage.
How does Modified Atmosphere Packaging work?
The Modified Atmosphere Package environment is formed from a finely balanced mix of normal atmospheric gases. The finely balanced MAP gas mix slows down the product aging process to reduce color loss, odor and off-taste resulting from product deterioration, spoilage, and rancidity caused by mold and other anaerobic organisms.
A carefully controlled Modified Atmosphere Package achieves and maintains an optimal respiration rate to preserve the fresh color, taste and nutrient content of red meat, seafood, minimally processed fruits and vegetables, pasta, prepared foods, cheese, baked goods, cured meats and dried foods throughout an extended shelf life.
Modified Atmosphere Packaging offers supply chain efficiencies
Longer shelf life MAP packages allow food processors, food manufacturers, food distributors and food retailers to better control product quality, availability, and costs.
Longer freshness cycles permit grocers to eliminate frequent product rotation, removal, and restocking; thereby reducing labor and waste disposal costs.
Distributors can extend distribution territories or offer a greater variety of product lines to the retailer since less frequent product replacement requirements permit growth in other areas.
Food manufacturers are able to take advantage of extended replacement cycles to reduce production replacement demands. Manufacturing capacity can be more profitably utilized by developing and offering new products.
Testing assures Modified Atmosphere Packaging integrity
Performance characteristics of Modified Atmosphere Packages are easily tested to assure that packages meet quality standards. Convenient, reliable and easy-to-use gas analyzers, gas mixers, gas control solutions, permeability testers and package leak detectors are available. MAP package testers evaluate, measure, adjust, control and test the modified atmosphere package environment.
Random package testing
Spot testing instruments can check, measure and analyze the amount of “head-space” air between the product and the package substrate within a random sampling of packages. Random MAP testing is typically done at pre-set intervals throughout the packaging operation to assure consistency. Spot testers, which rely on built-in air collection pumps to prevent atmospheric air from entering the package, offer immediate readings.
Hand-held headspace gas analyzers offer a fast check on oxygen or oxygen and carbon dioxide gas combinations within representative package samples.
Gas analyzers automatically measure and record in a seamless process provides uniform, traceable data reports. Measurements are displayed on a screen, stored in the computer and may be simultaneously sent to a printer when a paper record is desired.
On-line quality control
Regular, systematic in-line testing of every package provides total output assurance to measure package integrity and management of the MAP gas blend. When installed onto a flow-wrapping machine, a single test unit interfaces with each package to measure its on-line gas composition and evaluate the targeted oxygen level.
Automatic flow control enables a packaging machine operator to adjust filling speeds without impacting the oxygen level. When combined with an automated gas flushing system, the operator is able to gain greater control over both gas mix and package filling speeds.
A fully automated in-line, all-in-one package testing and gas mix blending controller are available to measure, evaluate and adjust the MAP gas mix for each package. Greater control over each package assures that each package has an optimum gas mix. In addition to providing package-to-package uniformity, the seamless package measurement and precision gas adjustment process assure a more efficient gas usage with a corresponding cost saving.
MAP testing options for thermoformed packages
On-line gas monitoring equipment tests two critical areas for assuring quality in MAP packages. In the first analysis, measurement is made to check the actual oxygen or oxygen and carbon dioxide gas blend put into thermoformed packages and tray sealers. Secondly, the reading reveals air leaks within each package. These leaks are typically caused by faulty maintenance or misalignment of dies or sealing heads on thermoforming and tray sealing machinery.
MAP package measurement tests are performed on-line during both the vacuum and injection process without causing disruption or delay.
Protection against leaks
Finished modified atmosphere package leak testing and package stress testing equipment is used to verify package integrity and seal strength. Unlike messy, manual old-fashioned water testing, the new non-destructive testing technology uses carbon dioxide CO2 as a trace gas in a fast, easy, user-independent test.
As part of an overall quality check, leak testing can be conducted in a closed, airtight chamber at each stage within the package forming process and during final package output.
Annual calibration offers one-time setup for maximum reliability
Advances in gas analyzer technology require less frequent instrument calibration. Once a year calibration is now available to offer greater reliability and faster set-up. Checking of recorded calibration data should be made using certified gases.
MAP package quality assurance
Although Modified Atmosphere Packaging is a well-established process, it is a good practice to maintain tight quality control through package testing. Incorrect oxygen levels, empty gas tanks, and bad sealing bars can cause imprecise gas blends and poor package seals that can result in product spoilage. Routine package testing with gas analyzers assures package quality, uniformity and brand consistency.