Freshness ready for stacking

fisch_forelle28.04.2008 - Polymer packaging with active structures improves the shelf life of food.

Tags: Packaging, Expiry, Nafispack

Quality and Freshness of food is obvious by its look, scent and taste. These factors clearly influence the buying decision of consumers. The target of the project NAFISPACK (Natural Antimicrobials for Innovative Safe and Safe Packaging) is to develop an antimicrobial packing material, which improves the shelf life of fresh fish, chicken and untreated vegetables and  make it suitable for recycling. In combination with intelligent packing, a strengthening of quality management is predicted. In a team comprising 17 partners from Scandinavia, Denmark, Spain, Italy and Germany, the research service provider ttz Bremerhaven will develop a packing material that reacts to environmental factors. Regarding its positive ecological characteristics and the customer-friendly nature, the project may be a contribution to the European Union´s positive list.

Bremerhaven, April 2008. Packaging is the “business card” of a product. It makes it stand out from the rest of the bulk on the shelf, offers space for information and provides the consumer with a further incentive to buy. Functional characteristics have become more and more important for  packaging during the last years. They offer an added value by reporting the freshness of a product or changes of important quality factors, such as temperature and humidity. For perishable goods such as meat and fish, the main concern of producers and retail is to enforce the shelf life of their products by preventing quality loss.

Since industry and consumers have a huge interest in packaging solutions that keep fresh products at a good quality level, the project partners are joining their forces, coordinated by the Spanish “Instituto Tecnológico del Embalaje, Transporte y Logística” (ITENE) to develop a new approach within the three year duration of the project. Improvements for facilitating better handling (e.g. easier to open) will also be taken into account.The project is supported by the 7th Framework Research Programme of the European Union.

Microorganisms mainly grow on the surface of semisolid and solid food. Therefore, the integration of natural antimicrobial agents (NAs) into packaging material is promising because they come into contact more easily. As carrier substance for antimicrobial agents, polymers are suitable: they have active structures, which stimulate the absorption and selective release of antimicrobial substances.

Food safety is the first priority of this project. So far, active matters have been used frequently in states outside of the EU, although they do not guarantee the safety of food and can even produce negative effects.

The approach of NAFISPACK is more far-reaching: innovative package systems are supposed to guarantee safety and freshness of the product during the whole process from farm to fork. Therefore, antimicrobial packaging material will be combined with quality indicators reacting on metabolites. By this method, quality loss can be detected at an early stage. The same principle can be noticed with basic total volatile nitrogen compounds as indicators for spoilt seafood, or short-chained alcohols and oxidation products of fat that react to contaminated fish.

„The safety of the material will be tested with chemical and toxic profiles during an intensive testing phase. The controlled release of active antimicrobial agents will be tested by encapsulation and nanotechnologies to find a practical solution. Additionally, new methods of risk estimation based on microbial and toxicological know-how will leave their mark on the development of the new packaging”, explains Dr. Yee Hilz, project manager at ttz Bremerhaven.

With support of small and medium size industry partners as well as big players, the NAFISPACK material will be tested in a real life package facility. The result will be a new safe packaging solution that consequently complies with ecological standards and buyer’s option for design, operation and price.

 


Press pictures for editorial use: (foto: ttz/pr)

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Especially for sensitive fresh products the packaging is supposed to offer protection by releasing antimicrobiological components in appropriate amounts.

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ttz Bremerhaven regards itself as an innovative provider of research services and operates in the field of application-oriented research and development. Under the umbrella of ttz Bremerhaven, an international team of experts is working in the areas of food, environment, health and consulting services.