Extending shelf life via packaging

Extending shelf life via packaging

A longer shelf life would make the process of supplying and distributing perishable food products more efficient and sustainable. Together with chain partners Wageningen Food & Biobased Research develops affordable packaging solutions that will reduce food waste in the chain.

Packing perishable food products in the right protective packaging can stop degradation and triple shelf life. Longer shelf life reduces spoilage in the agrifood chain, cuts back on delivery frequency and minimises food waste in consumer homes. Packaging for food must be made-to-measure. The choice of materials and packaging method are determined by the type of product. The gas permeability of the packaging used for most perishable products is tailored to the oxygen transmission rate of the products. Specific packaging material is chosen or tiny holes are made in the material to ensure that certain products can ‘breathe’. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has many years of experience in assessing existing and new packaging for food and helps companies to optimise their packaging designs.

Longer shelf life in barrier packaging

Perishable food products that do not need to ‘breathe’ (meat, fish, hard cheese, cooked products) often stay fresh longer in modified atmosphere packaging. The composition of the modified atmosphere largely depends on the specific product concerned and the degradation mechanism. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has helped various companies to select a barrier packaging that will stabilise the modified atmosphere for the duration of the shelf life. The extended shelf life of meat products is a good example. Changes in the colour of meat products are not only due to oxygen, but also come about when the product is exposed to different intensities and types of light. We have shown that undesirable colour changes can be kept to a minimum by ensuring the correct balance of oxygen, light intensity and wave length, temperature and production process.

Barrier packaging is more expensive than conventional packaging, which is why technical innovation in this field is in full swing. Food & Biobased Research has a great deal of experience in testing the practicality of all types of barrier packaging.

Oxygen absorbers

Removing the oxygen from the barrier packaging when packing products that are prone to oxidation, can spoil the flavour and cause the product to become rancid. Even the smallest amount of residual oxygen in the packaging can cause fats and proteins to oxidise under the influence of light, resulting in an unpleasant flavour. Adding oxygen absorbers to barrier packaging rinsed with nitrogen may be a way of preserving the fragrance and flavour of the product. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has used oxygen absorbers to preserve the flavour of post-pasteurised hotchpotch ready-meals.