Packaging Innovations Help Ensure Food Safety

Food manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to ensure that packaging materials and designs are such that the food it contains does not spoil or becomes contaminated.

One company has developed products that could help food be safer, handled better, and stored more efficiently. Namely, Sealed Airfood packaging Corp.’s has made a bag that not only seals meat, but allows it to be cooked without removing it from the bag first. It also has a temperature-monitoring system for perishable food, and flexible pouches that can store wetter foods in less storage space than cans, reports Nation’s Restaurant News.

“Food contamination can be prevented with proper controls, and packaging is an important part of that,” says Lucian Gray, director, North America Foodservice Business Development for Sealed Air Corp.’s Food Care Division, of which the Cryovac brand food packaging is a part, about the importance of packaging for foodservice operators and their suppliers. “The effort starts from the minute the asparagus or the meat is processed and packaged and continues to the time of consumption.”

Pre-marinated roast, ribs, seafood, and poultry can be held in Cryovac’s vacuum-packed bags and go straight to the oven. “Once you open the package and serve the product, you know it is the first time it has been touched since it was hygienically packaged at the start of the process,” says Gray.

Temperature control is imperative for perishable foods. If these foods are not chilled, they can be contaminated with microbial growth. Until recently, there was been no way to know whether the food has been exposed to unsafe temperatures during shipping, handling, or storage.

The company’s air temperature system uses a time and temperature system as well as a radio frequency identification tag (RFID) that it hopes can become standard on such products. Nation’s Restaurant News explains further how the system works:

The tag can be ordered pre-configured for a product’s temperature spec. The food supplier simply presses the button, activating the tag, to begin monitoring temperature. When the product arrives, the operator can press the button again to see if the product has stayed within the desired temperature range. Scanning the tag with an RFID reader uploads the data to a cloud-based storage site that records the temperatures the product has been exposed to and the length of time it has been exposed since it left the plant.

Each step can be performed without opening the package and risking contamination. “This gives operators confidence that the food they are putting into their operation has 100 percent integrity and never been abused,” Gray says.

The company also has developed flexible pouches with an oxygen-scavenging technology built into the film that protects the contents against oxidation, which will help them stay fresher longer. Flexible pouches are more compact, space-efficient, and lighter than cans.

“Unlike cans, pouches lay flat in a cube, so you can fit more product into less space,” Gray says. No can opener is required, and no metal shavings can contaminate the food.

Technicians at Polymer Solutions can help companies developing products like those coming from Sealed Air Corp. They can test packaging to ensure that it is within regulatory requirements. Or it can help manufacturers determine the layer thickness of packaging films and identify particles contained within films.

Source: “Packaging Solutions for Food Safety,” Nation’s Restaurant News, 10/8/13
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