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ResourcesModified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) - Keep Foods Fresh Longer

Reducing food waste has long been a priority for every specialty foods company. We know you want to keep your food products as fresh as possible for as long as possible and Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) makes it happen.

How MAP Works

With MAP, we alter the “atmosphere” surrounding your food product. A single gas or a mix of gases are used for this process, typically nitrogen, carbon dioxide and occasionally oxygen.

Nitrogen can be used in conjunction with many foods, and its basic function is to ensure that oxygen doesn’t come into contact with foods. We might use nitrogen for fresh fruit and veggies, as well as dried fruit and grated hard cheeses, such as parmesan.

A small amount of carbon dioxide also might be added, along with nitrogen, and this CO2 also helps protect foods from oxygenation, as well as keeping foods safer from bacterial growth and mold. We also might use nitrogen and CO2 with foods such as lunch meats, seafood, soft cheeses, raw poultry and fresh pastas.

Oxygen is not used as often as the two other gases, because it actually can promote spoilage and oxidation for many foods. But in some cases, some oxygen might be present in MAP, often used to avert anaerobic growth, which are organisms that do not require oxygen in order to grow.

All of this is known as gas flushing, but there are also a few other methods that can be used to extend shelf life. Using barrier packaging films, for instance, is an excellent option. These plastic films prevent oxygen and moisture from damaging foods. For some foods, adding a desiccant pack can be a good option. These packs contain materials, such as activated carbon, which soak up moisture and oxygen, thus preserving foods.

Benefits Of Modified Atmosphere Packaging

Aside from reducing food waste, which is a huge advantage of MAP, there are several other benefits to consider:

1. Safety

Obviously, food safety is always our biggest priority, and modified atmosphere packaging definitely helps to keep foods safe for a longer period of time. Not only does MAP increase safety, it preserves the quality and appearance of food.

2. Environmentally-Friendly

While reducing waste definitely increases sustainability, MAP packaging also allows us to use fewer artificial preservatives, which consumers definitely appreciate. These days, more and more shoppers are searching for products that are as natural as possible.

3. Expand Your Market

If you can keep foods fresher for a longer period of time, this means you can transport your product well beyond your current market and that boosts your profitably and market share.

Other Preventative Measures

When it comes to packaging, MAP certainly helps extend shelf life which in turn reduces food waste, but other types of packaging also can help reduce waste. For instance, we can create clamshell packaging for your product that allow consumers to eat part of the food items and then safely store the remainder for future use.

We also can create tubs with lids to make it easy for consumers to enjoy just one portion at a time. This can be a selling point with many consumers, who prefer buying food with packaging that can be closed up or resealed to retain freshness. Anytime you can make your food packaging more convenient for your consumers, you’ve made an excellent choice.

Preventing Food-Bourne Illness

Of course, while MAP packaging extends the life of many food products, we recommend that all consumers continue to follow proper food safety techniques. The Centers for Disease Control has created a handy list of steps that consumers can use at home to reduce the likelihood of food poisoning.

1. Clean

Wash your hands before preparing a meal, and during as you come into contact with different types of food, as well as prior to eating. Additionally, the CDC recommends rinsing all fresh veggies and fruits under running water and carefully cleaning countertops, knives, utensils and cutting boards in hot, soapy water.

2. Separate

Cross-contamination is a leading cause of food poisoning, so it is important to prepare raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood on cutting boards reserved just for these raw foods. These raw foods also should be stored in separate areas of your refrigerator, so that any meat juices don’t contaminate fresh veggies, fresh fruits, cheese, condiments and other items.

3. Cook

Different types of meats and food products need to be cooked to a specific temperature to ensure that the temperature has reached a point where all germs have been killed. Food thermometers can be used to check the internal temperatures of whatever you are cooking.

In general, depending on the food, proper internal temperatures range from 145 degrees to 165 degrees. To learn more about proper food temperatures, head to the CDC’s handy food safety chart at https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-cooking-temperature.

4. Chill

After a meal, all perishable food should be refrigerated within one to two hours, depending on the outside temperature. Keep your refrigerator set below 40 degrees, and thaw food either in the refrigerator or in cold water or in your microwave. The CDC recommends against thawing food on the counter, as this is an easy way to spread bacteria.

Knowing how long to keep foods can be tricky. For instance, people often are confused by the “sell-by” and “use by” dates on foods, and these can be misleading as many foods are still fresh well beyond the sell-by date. The CDC also has prepared a handy chart listing how long various foods can be kept either refrigerated or frozen, and you can check out this chart at https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/cold-food-storage-charts.

At Indepak, we’ve been creating custom plastic packaging for the specialty foods industry for more than 50 years. We offer a wide variety of food-compliant packaging materials, and can create clamshells, thermoformed trays, tubs and much more. Give us a call today at (800) 526-6273 or email sales2@indepak.com we can discuss your modified atmosphere packaging project today.

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