Ingredients & Shelf Life: Modified Atmosphere Package Thermoforming of Bakery Products for Shelf Life & Food Safety

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Adding Value and Security to Food…
Microbial spoilage and staling are the main factors limiting shelf-life of bakery products. This shows the importance of understanding formulation, processing, packaging, and storage conditions of these products.

Consumers now demand the convenience of fresh, healthy food with limited prep time and limited use of preservatives. Due to consumer social demands, economics and business challenges the food industry has fostered the use of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), which can provide many benefits to both the consumer and the food processor.

What is MAP?…
Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is a technique for packaging food in which the atmosphere inside the package has been modified in some way. MAP mainly involves the use of three gases – carbon dioxide, nitrogen and oxygen, although other gases are being considered for some applications. Products are packed in a single gas or a combination of these three gases depending on the physical and chemical properties of the food.

Package film type choice has impact on the type of package shape and function, use of MAP gasses and the quality attributes of the finished product.

Thermoforming packaging machines…
The basic function of a thermoforming packaging machine is that the bottom film is heated and shaped by the forming tool. The shaped film pocket is transported to the loading zone of the machine where the product is loaded into the cell pocket. The filled film cell is transported to the sealing station, where vacuum and/or a modified atmosphere is applied and the pack is sealed with a top film. The package is then transported further and cut to size, after which it eventually leaves the machine.

Benefits of MAP thermoforming for product shelf life and food security…
MAP can help to extend shelf-life, reduce waste, and increase product distribution range. MAP can enhance the products presentation and quality as well as add more perceived value by enabling the product to look and taste better for longer.

Packaging security is essential for food processors, and not just from the standpoint of keeping food unspoiled and safe to eat. Security, in the context of packaging, covers everything from consumer tampering, to bioterrorism, to product counterfeiting.

Thermoformed packages quickly show visible signs of package tampering or failure through broken seals. Loose film on vacuum packed gas flushed products provides evidence that the seal integrity has been compromised.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Examine gas blends and package film types used for MAP and their effects
  2. Discuss machinery used for MAP Thermoforming
  3. Review benefits of MAP thermoforming for product shelf life and food security

Jeff Zeak
Reiser & Co., Inc.