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The Easy way to Keep Your Food Product Fresh for a Longer Time

Are you a vendor of fresh food? Do you want to know what it takes to make your products stay fresh longer? Have you heard of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), headspace, gas analyzers and leak tests? Do you think these could be of any use to you?

Then this blog can give you both knowledge and inspiration. Your future packaging process can be optimized! And the shelf life of your fresh food products can be prolonged! Let’s get started!

Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) is a smart technology. It enables fresh and minimally processed packaged food products to stay fresh longer. The food will maintain its nutritional value and look delicious for a longer time. Modified Atmosphere Packaging is also known as gas flushing, protective atmosphere packaging or reduced oxygen packaging.

Replacing the air in the headspace

When using MAP in the packaging process you are flushing a gas (O2, CO2 or N2) into the headspace of the package. The headspace is the remaining area of the pack which is not occupied by the product. Atmospheric air allows bacteria to grow. When you replace the atmospheric air with the gas blend, the bacteria will stop growing. The composition of the gas blend depends on the type of food you want to pack. Fresh meat needs a different blend than for instance bread, cheese, chips, coffee, fish or any other product packed in MAP.

The Benefits of MAP

When you use the MAP technology you give a head start to your packaging process and leave your competitors behind. The number one benefit is that your product will stay fresh and maintain its nutritional value longer. This is one of the major challenges in packaging fresh food. Think what it could mean to your revenue if your product stayed fresh for at least 50-100% longer or even much longer. Do the math! The MAP technology reduces the need for artificial preservatives or stabilizers. I know many consumers including myself that consider these bad for the product.

MAP packaging material

When you decide to use MAP technology you might have to change the packaging material you use today. The MAP process requires a packaging material with special properties.

But how will you know if your actual packaging material fits the requirements for MAP?

Well, you have to involve your packaging material supplier. When you want to find out whether the material you use is the right packaging material for the MAP process, you must test the material. One way to test your material is to use a tester to help designing your pack, so you don’t end up with a pack that is constantly leaking.

The leak test

The leak test will reveal whether the material you have chosen has a leak in the sealing area or not.

You can carry out a leak test in several ways. I prefer the leak test done with trace gas because it doesn’t include any water. Water can spread the bacteria. The packages you test in water must be thrown away no matter if they pass the test or not. This can get expensive!

When you test the package with trace gas and the packaging material has a leak, the CO2 will escape from the package. The CO2 sensor in the chamber will then tell you if you have a leak.

You can do the leak test using trace gas on-line and very fast. You can easily test 4-6 shipping cartons per minute. Even up to 100 on-line tests per minute are possible. An on-line leak test means that the packaging process continues while you test. You can then test the entire batch so that you do not have to settle for testing samples. Only when testing 100% of your packages you can be sure that the quality of the headspace in all your packages correspond with your goal.

When you have done the test and start using MAP, the benefits to your business will be obvious. You might even ask yourself, “Why didn’t I do this earlier?”

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