Processed food is more popular today than ever before. This is partly because of the convenience it offers and partly because you can consume a greater variety of food without having to learn how to cook it. But processed food needs to go through a rigorous process before it makes its way to your nearest superstore. It needs to be manufactured and packaged in a certain way to maintain its freshness.
One way factories use to preserve processed food is by removing oxygen from the containers and replacing them with nitrogen. But how does nitrogen keep your food fresh? Keep reading to know more!
Below are the reasons why nitrogen gas is used by food packaging industries.
Packagers widely use the nitrogen flushing method for preserving and storing their products because nitrogen is a non-reactive gas. It is non-odorous and non-toxic. Plus, it is readily accessible. In fact, it makes up 78% of the atmosphere. These characteristics make storing food using nitrogen affordable and safe.
Source: The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Since oxygen gas is a very powerful oxidizing agent, it causes spoilage when it reacts with compounds such as sugars and fats. For example, have you noticed how an apple turns brown after you bite it? That is because of the oxidation process taking place. Nitrogen gas doesn’t have the same properties and is safe to use.
The majority of microorganisms, like mold, yeast, and aerobic bacteria use oxygen to survive and grow. The availability of oxygen in the food can cause the growth of dangerous bacteria that increases its spoilage rate. By replacing oxygen with nitrogen, contamination by bacteria can be reduced. Using nitrogen for preserving your products is also important because it can fill up all of the spaces in your packaging to prevent moisture from getting in.
One more reason why packagers prefer nitrogen flushing is that nitrogen can create a pressurized atmosphere, preventing packages from collapsing. Using nitrogen gas for this purpose helps make sure that delicate food like crackers and chips will not get crushed inside the bags.
Modified Atmosphere Packaging machines allow packagers to easily displace the oxygen inside containers with nitrogen onsite. This reduces the waste produced by your company and saves a lot on your expenses per year.
Packaging Manufacturers need to package processed food carefully so that it can withstand the transportation process. To reach this goal, packagers use the Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) method. Here’s a look at how MAP works:
Nitrogen flushing is a type of MAP and is similar to vacuum packaging. The main difference between vacuum packaging and nitrogen flushing is that nitrogen flushing uses nitrogen gas to reduce the amount of oxygen in the container while vacuum packaging simply vacuums the air out of the containers.
In the MAP method, they consider the food’s respiration level because respiration can determine the optimal type and quality of air needed to keep the food fresh. When packaging food, manufacturers use nitrogen filling and sealing machines and pack them with high permeability or low permeability membranes depending on the food’s respiration degree.
For instance, fruits and vegetables usually have higher respiration so they will require some gas exchange to stay fresh. The MAP method helps you determine the optimal membrane type for packaging the fruit or vegetable product to prevent early spoilage.
On the other hand, food products that don’t respirate like spices, cheese, and chips are packaged using low permeability membranes which prevent gas exchange. This maintains the optimal atmosphere needed to prevent spoilage inside the containers and ensures the food is fresh until it reaches the consumers.
Shelf Life of Product With Nitrogen Flushing
Shelf Life of Product Without Nitrogen Flushing
The presence of oxygen inside packages introduces moisture and this can deteriorate your food product’s quality. The use of nitrogen gas has long been used by packaging manufacturers for preserving the quality, integrity, and freshness of their products starting from the factory to their consumers’ homes. It is a safe method widely used in the industry. They often use nitrogen flush packaging to remove the oxygen from the containers before the sealing process. You can also check out more can filling machines and can sealing machines here in Levapack.