Cutting-edge methods and products to preserve food are ushering in the next chapter in food preservation
Preserving the freshness of food products will always be important – and new packaging methods and products are giving food companies more options than ever to ensure their wares remain shelf-stable and safe.
“Active and intelligent packaging (AIP) is gaining attention,” explains Carol Zweep, manager of Packaging and Nutrition Labelling services at the Guelph Food Technology Centre in Guelph, Ont. “Active packaging can be used to extend the shelf life or the quality of the food by releasing substances such as antioxidants, aroma, ethanol or other antimicrobial substance, or by absorbing undesirable substances such as oxygen or ethylene. Intelligent packaging gives information about the food to the consumer or retailer, such as freshness or quality of the product.”
How ubiquitous these technologies might become depends on several factors, according to Carol Raithatha, director of the U.K.-based Carol Raithatha Limited research consultancy. “Affordability, as well as clear benefits and minimal or low risks for manufacturers and consumers, will be necessary for these technologies to become widespread,” she says.
Raithatha also thinks acceptance of active packaging technologies depends on how they are presented and marketed – naturalness or perceived naturalness are important factors – and consumers have to feel complete trust in each product’s safety. They’ll continue to attract interest in her view, because any food preservation technique that helps to retain sensory characteristics of “freshness” will always be important. But, she adds, “Bioactive packaging of the future could also have functions other than preservation – for example, packaging with immobilised enzymes that caused food or drink to develop different colours, flavours, or textures could be possible – which might be viewed differently by consumers.”
In March, the European Union-funded AIP Competence Platform was unveiled. Once it’s completely up and running, this initiative will serve as a knowledge-sharing tool for companies, researchers and industry associations. It will include an on-line database of AIP packaging providers and new AIP product launches, among other features.
Keeping food safe
Oklahoma-based Bio-Cide International offers two Keeper Professional acidified antimicrobial products, activated at time of use to produce stabilized chlorine dioxide. “They are FDA and Health Canada approved, economical and kosher, and address the most-concerning food safety pathogens,” says Jeffrey Brusseau, technical support for Food Safety at Wesmar Company, which distributes the products. “For example, after 60 seconds of contact time at 42ppm, this technology provides a 99.999 per cent kill rate of Listeria monocytogenes (LM).”
Keeper Professional Seafood is used in fish and seafood processing waters and ice, but can also be used on high-risk, smoked ready-to-eat seafood. Keeper Professional Post Harvest is used in fruit and vegetable processing waters (flume and wash water). For low-volume applications, Keeper products can be activated manually, or for higher volumes, with BCI’s automated AANE (non-electric) System, Wall-Mount Activation System or their OLAS System, which combines activation with injection into water streams on the fly.