Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is the practice of modifying the composition of the internal atmosphere of a package (commonly food packages, drugs, etc.) in order to improve the shelf life.[1][2] The need for this technology for food arises from the short shelf life of food products such as meat, fish, poultry, and dairy in the presence of oxygen. In food, oxygen is readily available for lipid oxidation reactions. Oxygen also helps maintain high respiration rates of fresh produce, which contribute to shortened shelf life.[3] From a microbiological aspect, oxygen encourages the growth of aerobic spoilage microorganisms.[2] Therefore, the reduction of oxygen and its replacement with other gases can reduce or delay oxidation reactions and microbiological spoilage. Oxygen scavengers may also be used to reduce browning due to lipid oxidation by halting the auto-oxidative chemical process. Besides, MAP changes the gaseous atmosphere by incorporating different compositions of gases.

Testing the atmosphere in a plastic bag of carrots

The modification process generally lowers the amount of oxygen (O2) in the headspace of the package. Oxygen can be replaced with nitrogen (N2), a comparatively inert gas, or carbon dioxide (CO2).[2]

A stable atmosphere of gases inside the packaging can be achieved using active techniques, such as gas flushing and compensated vacuum, or passively by designing “breathable” films.

History edit

The first recorded beneficial effects of using modified atmosphere date back to 1821. Jacques Étienne Bérard, a professor at the School of Pharmacy in Montpellier, France, reported delayed ripening of fruit and increased shelf life in low-oxygen storage conditions.[4] Controlled atmosphere storage (CAS) was used from the 1930s when ships transporting fresh apples and pears had high levels of CO2 in their holding rooms in order to increase the shelf life of the product.[5] In the 1970s MA packages reached the stores when bacon and fish were sold in retail packs in Mexico. Since then development has been continuous and interest in MAP has grown due to consumer demand.

Theory edit

Atmosphere within the package can be modified passively or actively.[6] In passive MAP, the high concentration of CO2 and low O2 levels in the package is achieved over time as a result of respiration of the product and gas transmission rates of the packaging film. This method is commonly used for fresh respiring fruits and vegetables. Reducing O2 and increasing CO2 slows down respiration rate, conserves stored energy, and therefore extended shelf life.[7] On the other hand, active MA involves the use of active systems such as O2 and CO2 scavengers or emitters, moisture absorbers, ethylene scavengers, ethanol emitters and gas flushing in the packaging film or container to modify the atmosphere within the package.[7]

The mixture of gases selected for a MA package depends on the type of product, the packaging materials and the storage temperature. The atmosphere in an MA package consists mainly of adjusted amounts of N2, O2, and CO2.[6][8] Reduction of O2 promotes delay in deteriorative reactions in foods such as lipid oxidation, browning reactions and growth of spoilage organisms.[5][6] Low O2 levels of 3-5% are used to slow down respiration rate in fruits and vegetables.[6] In the case of red meat, however, high levels of O2 (~80%) are used to reduce oxidation of myoglobin and maintain an attractive bright red color of the meat.[9] Meat color enhancement is not required for pork, poultry and cooked meats; therefore, a higher concentration of CO2 is used to extend the shelf life.[8] Levels higher than 10% of CO2 are phytotoxic for fruit and vegetables, so CO2 is maintained below this level.

N2 is mostly used as a filler gas to prevent pack collapse.[5][8] In addition, it is also used to prevent oxidative rancidity in packaged products such as snack foods by displacing atmospheric air, especially oxygen, therefore extending shelf life.[5][8] The use of noble gases such as helium (He), argon (Ar) and xenon (Xe) to replace N2 as the balancing gas in MAP can also be used to preserve and extend the shelf life of fresh and minimally processed fruits and vegetables. Their beneficial effects are due to their higher solubility and diffusivity in water, making them more effective in displacing O2 from cellular sites and enzymatic O2 receptors.[10]

There has been a debate regarding the use of carbon monoxide (CO) in the packaging of red meat due to its possible toxic effect on packaging workers.[9] Its use results in a more stable red color of carboxymyoglobin in meat, which leads to another concern that it can mask evidence of spoilage in the product.[5][9]

Effect on microorganisms edit

Low O2 and high CO2 concentrations in packages are effective in limiting the growth of Gram negative bacteria, molds and aerobic microorganisms, such as Pseudomonas spp. High O2 combined with high CO2 could have bacteriostatic and bactericidal effects by suppression of aerobes by high CO2 and anaerobes by high O2.[10] CO2 has the ability to penetrate bacterial membrane and affect intracellular pH. Therefore, lag phase and generation time of spoilage microorganisms are increased resulting in shelf life extension of refrigerated foods.[9] Since the growth of spoilage microorganisms are suppressed by MAP, the ability of the pathogens to grow is potentially increased. Microorganisms that can survive under low oxygen environment such as Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium botulinum, E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and Aeromonas hydrophila are of major concern for MA packaged products.[7] Products may appear organoleptically acceptable due to the delayed growth of the spoilage microorganisms but might contain harmful pathogens.[7] This risk can be minimized by use of additional hurdles such as temperature control (maintain temperature below 3 degrees C), lowering water activity (less than 0.92), reducing pH (below 4.5) or addition of preservatives such as nitrite to delay metabolic activity and growth of pathogens.[8]

Packaging materials edit

Flexible films are commonly used for products such as fresh produce, meats, fish and bread seeing as they provide suitable permeability for gases and water vapor to reach the desired atmosphere. Pre-formed trays are formed and sent to the food packaging facility where they are filled. The package headspace then undergoes modification and sealing. Pre-formed trays are usually more flexible and allow for a broader range of sizes as opposed to thermoformed packaging materials as different tray sizes and colors can be handled without the risk of damaging the package.[11] Thermoformed packaging however is received in the food packaging facility as a roll of sheets. Each sheet is subjected to heat and pressure, and is formed at the packaging station. Following the forming, the package is filled with the product, and then sealed.[12] The advantages that thermoformed packaging materials have over pre-formed trays are mainly cost-related: thermoformed packaging uses 30% to 50% less material, and they are transported as rolls of material. This will amount in significant reduction of manufacturing and transportation costs.[11]

When selecting packaging films for MAP of fruits and vegetables the main characteristics to consider are gas permeability, water vapor transmission rate, mechanical properties, transparency, type of package and sealing reliability.[6] Traditionally used packaging films like LDPE (low-density polyethylene), PVC (polyvinyl chloride), EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) and OPP (oriented polypropylene) are not permeable enough for highly respiring products like fresh-cut produce, mushrooms and broccoli. As fruits and vegetables are respiring products, there is a need to transmit gases through the film. Films designed with these properties are called permeable films. Other films, called barrier films, are designed to prevent the exchange of gases and are mainly used with non-respiring products like meat and fish.

MAP films developed to control the humidity level as well as the gas composition in the sealed package are beneficial for the prolonged storage of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that are sensitive to moisture. These films are commonly referred to as modified atmosphere/modified humidity packaging (MA/MH) films.

Equipment edit

In using form-fill-seal packaging machines, the main function is to place the product in a flexible pouch suitable for the desired characteristics of the final product. These pouches can either be pre-formed or thermoformed. The food is introduced into the pouch, the composition of the headspace atmosphere is changed within the package; it is then heat sealed.[11] These types of machines are typically called pillow-wrap, which horizontally or vertically form, fill and seal the product.[5] Form-fill-seal packaging machines are usually used for large scale operations.

In contrast, chamber machines are used for batch processes. A filled pre-formed wrap is filled with the product and introduced into a cavity. The cavity is closed and vacuum is then pulled on the chamber and the modified atmosphere is inserted as desired. Sealing of the package is done through heated sealing bars, and the product is then removed. This batch process is labor-intensive and thus requires a longer period of time; however, it is relatively cheaper than packaging machines which are automated.[11]

Additionally, snorkel machines are used to modify the atmosphere within a package after the food has been filled. The product is placed in the packaging material and positioned into the machine without the need of a chamber. A nozzle, which is the snorkel, is then inserted into the packaging material. It pulls a vacuum and then flushes the modified atmosphere into the package. The nozzle is removed and the package is heat sealed. This method is suitable for bulk and large operations.[11]

Products edit

Many products such as red meat, seafood, minimally processed fruits and vegetables, salads, pasta, cheese, bakery goods, poultry, cooked and cured meats, ready meals and dried foods are packaged under MA.[4] A summary of optimal gas mixtures for MA products is shown in the following table.

Modified Atmosphere Packaging for different food products and optimal gas mixtures[2]

Product Oxygen (%) Carbon Dioxide (%) Nitrogen (%)
Red Meat 80 - 85 15 -
Poultry - 25 75
Fish - 60 40
Cheeses - 100 -
Bread - 70 30
Fresh Pasta - - 100
Fruits and Vegetables 3 - 5 3 - 5 85 - 95

Grains edit

Modified atmosphere may be used to store grains.

CO2 prevents insects and, depending on concentration, mold and oxidation from damaging the grain. Grain stored in this way can remain edible for approximately five years.[13] One method is placing a block of dry ice in the bottom and filling the can with the grain. Another method is purging the container from the bottom by gaseous carbon dioxide from a cylinder or bulk supply vessel.

Nitrogen gas (N2) at concentrations of 98% or higher is also used effectively to kill insects in the grain through hypoxia.[14] However, carbon dioxide has an advantage in this respect, as it kills organisms through hypercarbia and hypoxia (depending on concentration), but it requires concentrations of roughly over 35%.[15] This makes carbon dioxide preferable for fumigation in situations where a hermetic seal cannot be maintained.

Air-tight storage of grains (sometimes called hermetic storage) relies on the respiration of grain, insects, and fungi that can modify the enclosed atmosphere sufficiently to control insect pests. This is a method of great antiquity,[16] as well as having modern equivalents. The success of the method relies on having the correct mix of sealing, grain moisture, and temperature.[17]

A patented process uses fuel cells to exhaust and automatically maintain the exhaustion of oxygen in a shipping container, containing, for example, fresh fish.[18]

See also edit

Citations edit

  1. ^ Ogg, M (April 2020), Modified Atmosphere Packaging Adds More Value To Value-Added, Produce Business, retrieved 20 August 2020
  2. ^ a b c d Parry, R. T. (1993). Principles and applications of modified atmosphere packaging of foods. Boston, MA: Springer US. ISBN 9781461358923. OCLC 840284063.
  3. ^ Boskou, D., Elmadfa, I. (2011). Frying of food : oxidation, nutrient and non-nutrient antioxidants, biologically active compounds and high temperatures (2nd ed.). Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 9781439806821. OCLC 466361000.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b Kirtil, E and Oztop, M.H. (2016). "Controlled and modified atmosphere packaging". Reference Module in Food Science. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-100596-5.03376-X. ISBN 9780081005965.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b c d e f Blakistone, B.A. (1998). Principles and applications of modified atmosphere packaging of foods (2nd ed.). London: Blackie Academic & Professional. pp. 1–38. ISBN 978-0751403602.
  6. ^ a b c d e Robertson, G.L. (2006). Food Packaging Principles and Practice (2nd ed). Florida: CRC Press. pp. 313–330. ISBN 978-0-8493-3775-8.
  7. ^ a b c d Brody, A.L., Zhuang, H., Han, J.H (2011). Modified atmosphere packaging for fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. West Sussex, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. pp. 57–67. ISBN 978-0-8138-1274-8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ a b c d e Fellows, P.J (2017). Food processing technology: principles and practice (4th ed). Duxford, UK: Woodhead Publishing. pp. 992–1001. ISBN 978-0-08-101907-8.
  9. ^ a b c d Djenane, D., Roncales, P. (2018). "Carbon monoxide in meat and fish packaging: advantages and limits". Foods. 7 (2): 12. doi:10.3390/foods7020012. PMC 5848116. PMID 29360803.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ a b Ghidelli, C, Perez-Gago, M.B (2018). "Recent advances in modified atmosphere packaging and edible coatings to maintain quality of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables". Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 58 (4): 662–679. doi:10.1080/10408398.2016.1211087. hdl:20.500.11939/6137. PMID 27469103. S2CID 205692928.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ a b c d e Mullan, Michael; McDowell, Derek (2011-03-17). Food and Beverage Packaging Technology. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 263–294. doi:10.1002/9781444392180.ch10. ISBN 9781444392180.
  12. ^ Schmidt, F (2003-12-20). "Modelling of infrared heating of thermoplastic sheet used in thermoforming process". Journal of Materials Processing Technology. 143–144: 225–231. doi:10.1016/s0924-0136(03)00291-7. S2CID 136832404.
  13. ^ Navarro, Shlomo; Timlick, Blaine; Demianyk, Colin; White, Noel (March 2012). "Controlled or Modified Atmospheres" (PDF). Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  14. ^ Annis, P.C. and Dowsett, H.A. 1993. Low oxygen disinfestation of grain: exposure periods needed for high mortality. Proc. International Conference on Controlled Atmosphere and Fumigation. Winnipeg, June 1992, Caspit Press, Jerusalem, pp. 71–83.
  15. ^ Annis, P.C. and Morton, R. 1997. The acute mortality effects of carbon dioxide on various life stages of Sitophilus oryzae. J. Stored Prod.Res. 33. 115–124
  16. ^ Various authors, Session 1: Natural Air-Tight Storage In: Shejbal, J., ed., Controlled Atmosphere Storage of Grains, Elsevier: Amsterdam, 1–33
  17. ^ Annis P.C. and Banks H.J. 1993. Is hermetic storage of grains feasible in modern agricultural systems? In "Pest control and sustainable agriculture" Eds S.A. Corey, D.J. Dall and W.M. Milne. CSIRO, Australia. 479–482
  18. ^ Laine Welch (18 May 2013). "Laine Welch: Fuel cell technology boosts long-distance fish shipping". Anchorage Daily News. Archived from the original on 9 June 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2013.

References edit

  • Church, I.J. & Parsons, A.L.: (1995) Modified Atmosphere Packaging Technology: A Review, Journal Science Food Agriculture, 67, 143-152
  • Day, B.P.F.: (1996) A perspective of modified atmosphere packaging of fresh produce In Western Europe, Food Science and Technology Today, 4,215-221
  • European Food Information Council (EFIC: (2001) Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Food on the use of carbon monoxide as component of packaging gases in modified atmosphere packaging for fresh meat.
  • Parry, R. T.: (1993) Principles and applications of MAP of foods, Blackie Academic & Professional, England, 1-132
  • Phillips, C.A.: (1996) Review: Modified Atmosphere Packaging and its effects on the microbial quality and safety of produce, International Journal of Food Science and Tech, 31, 463-479
  • Robertson, G. L., "Food Packaging: Principles and Practice", 3rd edition, 2013, ISBN 978-1-4398-6241-4
  • Zagory, D. & Kader, A.A.: (1988) Modified atmosphere packaging of fresh produce, Food Technology., 42(9), 70-77