Food packaging is an important part of keeping the food we buy and eat safe and healthy for consumption. As such, there are many kinds of food packaging, and many different ways of packaging it. There are many factors to consider when deciding on how and with what to package a product. These methods are selected based on the properties of the food and the environment it will be in, among other criteria.
Below are nine important food packaging procedures for health and safety:
1. Package with a purpose
It is important to recognize that all food packaging procedures serve as more than just a protector for the food it encases. The packaging is also used to make the food look good, and will contain a lot of information about the product including the brand, nutritional information, and ingredients.
The packaging must effectively keep the food fresh, and be functional for the user. Finally, it provides a type of food packaging integrity which prevents tampering, and allows the consumer to recognize if the food may have been tampered with.
2. Frills or no frills
A packaging choice that must be made is whether the food packaging will have additional features that make it more functional for the user. An example of this is resealable bags and packages. These features can cost a little bit extra, but can make a huge difference for the user experience. No frills packaging is cheaper, and the lower number on the price tag may be enticing to customers, but it may not be ideal for some products that don’t keep well.
To understand food packaging procedures, you must know that food is packaged in three layers. The first layer is the individual package in which the food is packaged. Next, multiple units are put into a secondary layer, like a box. The tertiary layer of packaging is a larger packaging format like a container or pallet which facilitates mass transportation of the product.
Each layer of the food packaging is crucial to keeping the food safe, keeping pests out, and ensuring it does not get damaged in the transportation process.
4. Aluminum cans
Aluminum is a strong material, and using it for cans is an aseptic method of packaging. It can be used on almost any kind of wet food, including meat, vegetables, and fruit. This material is common among food packaging procedures because it is effective, however it is an expensive method for packaging food, and the food cannot be canned fresh, it must be cooked so as to avoid bacteria like E. coli.
5. Tetra Paks and cartons
Cartons, and Tetra Paks – layered and lined containers made primarily of cardboard that generally contains liquid – are a commonly used material for liquid food and beverage products. It is often used for juice and milk, but can also be used for other products, including some soups and other beverages.
6. Glass jars
Packaging food in glass jars is a great way to maintain maximum flavour in foods, as the material does not allow flavour and scents to escape. This is considered one of the more environmentally friendly food packaging procedures, because it can be both recycled and reused. However, it is heavy, so it costs more to ship, and it can break, chip, and crack fairly easily. This means that the estimated costs of written off product will likely go up as well.
There are many types of plastic, and Polyethylene is one of the most popular for food packaging. Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE or PET) is used in any plastic container that has the number one engraved on it. Most commonly, this material is used for soft drinks and bottled water, as well as salad dressing and other condiment containers.
High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is any plastic with the number 2 on the bottom. It’s light and strong, and is often used for milk, juice, other liquids, and grocery bags. Low density polyethylene (LDPE) is usually more flexible and is used in everything from bread bags to coffee tin lids.
8. Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)
There are two kinds of MAP: passive and active. In passive, the gases are modified naturally over time depending on what is packaged. In active, the atmosphere is essentially removed to keep oxygen levels low. This allows foods that has not been highly processed to remain fresher for longer periods of time, and to keep an appealing look throughout that time.
However, because this method does not eliminate bacteria, there may still be some processing that the product undergoes in order to ensure it is safe for consumption.
9. Controlled Atmosphere Packaging (CAP)
Different from MAP, CAP is a process where oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen are combined and regulated within a product’s environment. These three gases are mixed together in order to control the environment the food is in. It is often combined with controlled atmosphere storage, which is common for fruits and vegetables, as this method can extend their shelf life by two to four times.