© Robert Kneschke / fotolia.com

© Robert Kneschke / fotolia.com

High-Tech against spoilage of food

Neue Lebensmittelverpackungen für längere Haltbarkeit

June 2015 – Is your yoghurt still edible a day after the sell-by-date? There are mixed answers to this question as not everyone is ready to test expired foodstuffs past their sell-by-date. Figures here from the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture (BMELV) state that 61% of still edible foodstuffs are disposed of by consumers after purchasing. This corresponds to 80 kilos per household per year.

To counter this kind of unnecessary and premature disposal of edible foodstuffs worldwide the ‘SAVE FOOD’ initiative was set up in 2011. The initiative of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO, the UN Environmental Program, UNEP, Messe Düsseldorf and the world’s leading fair for packaging and processes would like to advance innovations, promote interdisciplinary dialogue and prompt debate to find solutions along the entire value added chain.

At industry level researchers are working on innovative packaging solutions for longer shelf life for food. Antibacterial plastics, ‘pulsed light’ technology and films and foils with a barrier function are just some of the new developments on the international market.
Antimicrobial films and pulsed light
In the wake of social and demographic development the quantity of pre-packed and ready-to-eat foods is increasing at a rapid rate. To meet organoleptic, dietary, hygiene and toxicological demands the industry is continually developing new processes and technologies.

In cooperation with meat processing operations and packaging firms researchers at the University of Bonn have managed to develop plastics that are considerably more germ-resistant than conventional materials. The antimicrobial film is thought to extend the shelf-life of fresh foodstuffs. An imminent market launch is planned and those behind the new development say the material will not generate additional costs.

With so-called ‘pulsed light technology’ the focus is on the decontamination of fresh food and the materials that come into contact with food such as packaging material. As a further development of UV technology the pulsed light generates high-voltage impulses that are transformed into light flashes using high frequency and intensity which then destroy microorganisms.

Another very recent development is 'Actipoly', a development project that also places the shelf-life of fresh foodstuffs centre stage. Fibre-based packaging material with a barrier function and antimicrobial coating is thought not only to extend the shelf-life of the products contained inside but to also ensure recyclability and compostability. The key to this project is modifying the fibre-based materials in such a way that they produce thermoplastic properties and become resistant to oxygen and water vapour.

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