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7 Emerging Technologies in Food Packaging: Overview

Jung H. Han
PepsiCo Corporate Research, PepsiCo Inc., Plano, TX, USA

7.1 Introduction as an important parameter in packaging


development.
Food packaging is a process to establish a pack- Food industry uses a lot of packaging materials,
age for food. Package in US Federal Food, Drug and and thus even a small reduction in the consumption
Cosmetics Act is defined as An act for preventing of materials for each package would result in a sig-
the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulter- nificant cost and material reduction, and may
ated or misbranded or poisonous deleterious foods, improve solid waste problems. Various new pack-
drugs, medicines, and liquors, and for regulating aging technologies have attempted to reduce the
traffic therein, and for other purposes (Title 21, volume and/or weight of materials in efforts to
Chapter 9, Subchapter II, Section 321b). Packaging minimize resources and costs. Several trends in the
is one of the most important processes to maintain food packaging evolution have been remarkable
the quality of food products during storage, transpor- (Testin and Vergano, 1990), including source
tation, and end use (Kelsey, 1985). It prevents qual- reduction, design improvement for convenience and
ity deterioration, and facilitates distribution and handling, and environmental concerns regarding
marketing efficiencies. The basic functions of pack- packaging materials and processes. Food packaging
aging are protection, containment, information, and has evolved from simple preservation methods to
convenience (Kelsey, 1985). A good package can convenience, point-of-purchase marketing, material
not only preserve food quality but also significantly reduction, safety, tamper-proofing, and environ-
contribute to a business profit. Beyond the functions mental issues (Stilwell et al., 1991). Since the
of preservation, packaging also has secondary World Trade Center tragedy in 2001, food technol-
functionssuch as selling and sales promotion. ogists have focused their attention on revising pack-
However, the main function of food packaging is to aging systems and package designs to increase food
achieve preservation and the safe delivery of safety and security. The level of concern regarding
food products until consumption. During distribu- the use of food and water supplies as the possibility
tion, the quality of the food product can deteriorate of bioterrorism has increased (Nestle, 2003).
biologically and chemically as well as physically. Therefore, many applications of active packaging
Therefore, food packaging contributes to extending will be commercially developed for the security
the shelf life and maintaining the original quality and safety enhancement of food products.
and the safety of the food products. Although food packaging has evolved in its vari-
Yokoyama (1985) suggested the conditions nec- ous functions, every package still has to meet the
essary to produce appropriate packaging, which are basic functions. Food packaging reduces food waste
mass production, reasonable and efficient packag- and spoilage during distribution and decreases the
ing material, suitable structure and form, conve- cost of preservation facilities. It extends the shelf
nience, and consideration of disposal. Therefore, life of foods and provides safe foods to consumers.
according to these conditions, packaging designing A good package has to maintain the safety and
and development requires not only an industrial quality of foods as well as being convenient, allow-
design capability, creativity, and marketing tools ing sales promotion, and addressing environmental
but also advanced knowledge of engineering and issues.
environmental science. Preservation, convenience, The quality of the packaged food is directly
and the other basic functions of packaging are cer- related to the food and packaging material attri-
tainly important, but its disposal should be treated butes. Most food products deteriorate in quality

Ebnesajjad: Plastic Films in Food Packaging. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-4557-3112-1.00007-7


2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Adapted from a chapter in: Han, Innovations in Food Packaging (2005). 121
122 PLASTIC FILMS IN FOOD PACKAGING

due to mass transfer phenomena. These phenom- New software and part installations in unit
ena can occur between the food product and the operations have been introduced, and high-speed
atmospheric environment, between the food and automation has been achieved by using new
the packaging materials, or among the heteroge- servomotors, subsystem parts, and software technol-
neous ingredients in the food product itself ogies such as the machine vision system (Tucker,
(Krochta, 1997). Therefore, mass transfer studies 2003). The processing and packaging equipment
of the migration of package components and food has new functions that feature increased safety,
ingredients; of the absorption and desorption of quality, and productivity, and therefore it seems
volatile ingredients, flavors, and moisture; of gas that the development of new packaging functions
permeation; and of the reaction kinetics of oxida- may go hand in hand with the development of new
tion and ingredient degradation are essential for processes, materials, and equipments. Packages
food packaging system designs. may have new purposes if new functional packag-
ing materials and/or materials containing functional
inserts/parts are used. Developing new packaging
technologies implies not only new material devel-
7.2 Innovations in Food opment but also new packaging design systems.
Processing and Packaging Yam and Lee (2012) listed some socioeconomic
reasons that drive packaging innovations, such
Year after year, technology becomes better. as consumer lifestyle, value of products, profits,
Most developments in the field of food technology safety/biosecurity, regulations, and environmental
have been oriented toward improving food proces- concerns.
sing and products more conveniently, more effi-
ciently, at less cost, and with higher quality and
safety levels. Traditional thermal processes have
7.3 Food Packaging Technologies
offered innovative developments in the food pro-
cessing industry; these include commercial sterili- 7.3.1 Extra Active Functions of
zation, quality preservation, shelf-life extension,
and safety enhancement. Extended shelf-stable pro- Packaging Systems
ducts manufactured by retorting or aseptic proces- Active packaging has been defined differently by
sing are available in any grocery store and do not many researchers. Among them Robertson (2006)
require refrigeration. These types of products are defined it as packaging in which subsidiary consti-
very convenient at any place or time and are easy tuents have been deliberately included in or on
to handle, therefore benefiting producers, proces- either the packaging material or the package head-
sors, distributors, retailers, and consumers. The space to enhance the performance of the packaging
major function of extended shelf-stable food pack- system. Many new extra functions have been
aging is to construct a protective barrier against the introduced in active packaging technologies,
invasion of microorganisms. including oxygen-scavenging and intelligent func-
Beyond this simple barrier function, there has tions, antimicrobial activity, atmosphere control,
been more research and development introducing edibility, biodegradability, etc. Food packaging per-
new purposes for food packaging systems. Among forms beyond its conventional protective barrier
these, significant new functional packaging systems function. The new active packaging systems
which have been successfully commercialized are increase product security, safety, protection, conve-
active packaging, modified atmosphere packaging nience, and information delivery. Active packaging
(MAP), and edible films/coatings. systems extend the shelf life of food products by
The development of new packaging functionali- maintaining their quality longer, increase their
ties has been possible because of technological safety by securing foods from pathogens and bioter-
advances in food processing, packaging material rorism, and enhance the convenience of food pro-
science, and machinery. Among the many new cessing, distribution, retailing, and consumption.
technologies, the development in processing and There are many applications of active packaging
packaging machinery is notable, leading to higher technologies, several of which have been commer-
standards of regulation, hygiene, health, and safety. cialized and are used in the food industry; these
7: EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES IN FOOD PACKAGING: OVERVIEW 123

include oxygen-scavenging, carbon dioxide absorb- depending on different viewpoints. It contains intelli-
ing, moisture-scavenging (desiccation), and antimi- gent functions that have been studied to enhance
crobial systems. Most researchers report that the shelf convenience for food manufacturing and distribution
life of packaged foods has been extended by using and, increasingly, to improve food security and
these active packaging systems, but the combinations safety verification (Rodrigues and Han, 2003).
of multiple active packaging technologies have been
suggested to improve the quality and safety of foods,
and present a future trend in promising new research
7.3.2 Modified Atmosphere
and development project (Cooksey, 2010). Oxygen- Packaging
scavenging systems have been commercialized in the MAP is traditionally used to preserve the fresh-
form of a sachet that removes oxygen from within ness of fresh produce, meats, and fish by control-
packages. An oxygen-free environment can prevent ling their biochemical metabolism, such as
food oxidation and rancidity, and the growth of aero- respiration or fermentation. Nitrogen flushing, vac-
bic bacteria and molds. Carbon dioxide-scavenging uum packaging, and carbon dioxide injection have
packaging systems can prevent packages from inflat- been used commercially for many years. However,
ing due to the carbon dioxide formed after the pack- current research and development has introduced
aging processfor example, packaged coffee beans new modified atmosphere technologies such as
may produce carbon dioxide during storage as a result inert gas (e.g. argon) flushing for fruits and vegeta-
of nonenzymatic browning reactions. Fermented pro- bles, SO2 or ClO2 gas releasing for fruits, carbon
ducts such as pickles, sauces, kimchi (lactic acid fer- monoxide injection for red meats, and high oxygen
mented vegetables), and some dairy products can flushing for red meats. For a MAP system to work
produce carbon dioxide after the packaging process. effectively, optimal packaging material with proper
Carbon dioxide-scavenging systems are also quite gas permeability properties must be selected. The
useful for products that require fermentation and use of MAP systems is attractive to the food indus-
undergo aging processes after they have been packed. try because there is a fast-growing market for
Moisture-scavenging systems have been used for a fresh-cut processed fruits and vegetables, nonfrozen
very long time for packaging dried foods, moisture- chilled meats/fish/poultry, ready-to-eat meals, and
sensitive foods, pharmaceuticals, and electronic semiprocessed bulk foods.
devices; in these systems, desiccant materials are MAP dramatically extends the shelf life of pack-
included in the package in the form of a sachet. aged food products, and in some cases food does
Recently, the sachets have contained humectants as not require any further treatments or any special
well as desiccants to control the humidity inside the care during distribution. However, in most cases,
package more specifically. Moisture-scavenging sys- extending shelf life and maintaining quality require
tems that are based on desiccation are evolving to a multiple hurdle technology systemfor example,
control the moisture by maintaining a specific relative temperature control in addition to MAP is generally
humidity inside the package by absorbing or releasing essential to maintain the quality of packaged foods.
moisture. The hurdle technology concept is therefore impor-
Antimicrobial packaging applications are directly tant for MAP applications, since the modified
related to an improved level of food microbial atmosphere provides an unnatural gas environment
safety and bioterrorism as well as to extended shelf that can create unexpected and serious microbial
life by preventing the growth of spoilage and/or problems such as the growth of anaerobic bacteria
pathogenic microorganisms. The growth of spoilage and the production of microbial toxins. Therefore,
microorganisms shortens the foods shelf life, while the inclusion of a temperature control system is
the growth of pathogenic microorganisms endan- very important for quality preservation and micro-
gers public health. Antimicrobial packaging sys- bial control together with the maximum effective-
tems consist of packaging materials, in-package ness of MAP.
atmospheres, and packaged foods, and is designed
to kill or inhibit the microorganisms that cause
food-borne illnesses (Han, 2000, 2003a,b). 7.3.3 Edible Films and Coatings
Intelligent packaging has been categorized both as The use of edible films and coatings is an appli-
a part of active packaging and as a separate entity, cation of active food packaging, since the edibility
124 PLASTIC FILMS IN FOOD PACKAGING

and biodegradability of the films are functions pouches should resist pressure changes and maintain
beyond those of conventional packaging (Han, seal strength. Since these new technologies each pos-
2002). Edible films and coatings are useful materi- sess unique process characteristics, packaging materi-
als produced mainly from edible biopolymers and als should be selected with these characteristics in
food-grade additives. Most biopolymers are natu- mind.
rally existing polymers, including proteins, polysac- These new packaging materials and/or systems
charides (carbohydrates and gums), and lipids not only need to work technically but they should
(Gennadios et al., 1997). Plasticizers and other also be examined scientifically to ensure their
additives are included with the film-forming biopo- safety and lack of toxicity, and be approved by reg-
lymers in order to modify the films physical prop- ulatory agencies. In some cases, countries may
erties or to create extra functionalities. require new regulations and legislation for the use
Edible films and coatings enhance the quality of of these new processing and packaging technolo-
food products by protecting them from natural dete- gies. The globalization of the food industry
rioration processes. The application of edible films enforces international standards and compliance
and coatings is an easy way to improve the physical with multiple regulations. New technologies should
strength of the food products, reduce particle clus- also be examined for their effect on product quality
tering, and enhance the visual and tactile features and public health, and the results of these tests
of food product surfaces (Cuq et al., 1995). They should be disclosed to the public, government agen-
can also protect food products from oxidation, cies, processors, and consumer groups. However,
moisture absorption/desorption, microbial growth, some criteria (such as threshold levels, allowable
and other chemical reactions. The most common limits, and generally acceptable levels) are decided
functions of edible films and coatings are that they politically, as are rulings on how to practice and
are barriers against oils, gas, or vapors, and that review the policy. Scientific intervention is limited,
they are carriers of active substances such as anti- but it is important that scientific research results
oxidants, antimicrobials, colors, and flavors and suggestions be sought and respected during
(Guilbert and Gontard, 1995; Krochta and De political decision making. Consumers buy and
Mulder-Johnston, 1997). Thus edible films and decide what they want. It is also very important to
coatings enhance the quality of food products, develop new packaging innovations that consumers
which results in an extended shelf life and want, choose, and adapt their life style to accept
improved safety. the benefits (Spencer and Junkus, 2007).

7.4 New Food Processing 7.5 Future Trends in Food


Technologies Packaging
Besides the traditional heat processes for food A continuing trend in food packaging technology
preservation, many other new thermal and nonther- is the research and development of new materials
mal treatment technologies have been developed that possess very high-barrier properties. High-
recently. These include irradiation, high-pressure pro- barrier materials can reduce the total amount of
cesses, pulsed electric fields, UV treatments, antimi- packaging materials required, since they are made
crobial packaging, etc. Some of these processes have of thin or lightweight materials with high-barrier
been commercially approved by regulatory agencies. properties. The use of high-barrier packaging mate-
These new technologies generally require new rials reduces the costs in material handling, distri-
packaging materials and new package design in order bution/transportation, and waste reduction.
to achieve optimum processing efficiencyfor Convenience is also a hot trend in food packag-
example, packages that undergo an irradiation pro- ing development. Convenience at the manufacturing,
cess are required to be resistant to high energy to distribution, transportation, sales, marketing, con-
prevent polymer degradation, those that undergo sumption, and waste disposal level is very important
UV treatments of packaged foods require UV and competitive. Convenience parameters may be
light transmittable packaging materials, and retortable related to productivity, processibility, warehousing,
7: EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES IN FOOD PACKAGING: OVERVIEW 125

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