Oxygen is the main component that causes food spoilage. When foods turn brown, their components combine with oxygen, initiating the oxidation process. Moreover, microorganisms such as aerobic bacteria, molds, and yeast require oxygen to thrive. These destroy the quality of your products and generate costly expenses.
The most effective method of preventing the damages caused by oxygen is to displace the oxygen inside the containers and replace it with nitrogen gas. This method is called nitrogen flush packaging. So how do you use nitrogen flush packaging to ensure that the quality and freshness of your products are maintained? Read on to know more.
In the food and beverage industry, packagers commonly use nitrogen gas to reduce the oxygen content of a package. This decreases the spoilage rate of the product and keeps the food fresh. Nitrogen flush packaging is a practice used in preserving and protecting food from damages during storage and shipping. Chip and snack bags are great examples of this process.
In nitrogen flush packaging, the oxygen inside the package is replaced with nitrogen. Unlike oxygen, it does not react with food products or affect their texture or flavor. Thus, your products will stay fresh for a longer time. Moreover, nitrogen flushing is a type of Modified Atmosphere Packaging method. The process can take place inside the container itself and in the various steps of packaging such as in the filling and sealing processes.
Nitrogen flush packaging accomplishes the following tasks:
You do not need to worry about the presence of nitrogen gas in your food products because it is completely safe. You are inhaling nitrogen constantly as it makes up 78% of the atmosphere.
Below is an overview of the nitrogen flush packaging process.
The containers filled with nitrogen gas help in protecting the delicate food products packaged inside until the consumer opens the containers. Once the containers are opened, the nitrogen gas escapes and around 20% oxygen replaces it. This means that the protection provided by the nitrogen gas is now gone. The food will start deteriorating and the fats or oils will go rancid.
Keeping the container closed can help keep some of your food’s freshness though. Or, you can place it inside a resealable container then put it in your fridge. However, it is best that you consume processed food products immediately after opening them.
The amount of nitrogen required for preserving your food product will not always be the same. You need to take into account a lot of factors that accompany the Modified Atmosphere Packaging technique. But generally, below are the 3 major factors that you have to consider.
Food products that spoil quickly obviously require more amount of nitrogen to preserve them compared to shelf-stable ones such as dried beans and honey.
How sturdy are your packaging containers? Are they porous and susceptible to breakages? Or are they solid and dense? Check for chances of gas escaping from your containers too.
Take note of the conditions in your storage methods. Are you going to store your products on open shelves or are you going to keep them frozen or refrigerated? For food products that you will store at room temperature, you will be needing more nitrogen.
Nitrogen flush packaging is widely used in packaging fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables. But, its use in the beer and coffee industries is also increasing. In addition, coffee products that are brewed using nitrogen are quite popular recently. Though some might question if nitrogen-flushed coffee products are safe.
For beverage manufacturers, they need to meet specific purity levels when introducing nitrogen gas into their products. Plus, they also need to make sure that they are using gas free from any contamination.
Nitrogen flush packaging is a great method of modifying the atmosphere inside your containers so that you can maintain the freshness of your products and prolong their shelf lives. But, the amount of nitrogen required for this method varies depending on your application. So, you will need to perform a trial and error method to find out the ideal amount that will give your food products their optimum shelf life. You can also find ideal can packaging machines here in LPE.