||This article needs attention from an expert on the subject. (February 2012)|
Food packaging is packaging for food. It requires protection, tampering resistance, and special physical, chemical, or biological needs. It also shows the product that is labeled to show any nutrition information on the food being consumed.
Functions of food packaging
Packaging has several objectives:
- Physical protection - The foodtwerk enclosed in the package may require protection from, among other things, shock, vibration, compression, temperature, etc.
- Barrier protection - A barrier from oxygen, water vapor, dust, etc., is often required. Permeation is a critical factor in design. Some packages contain desiccants or Oxygen absorbers to help extend shelf life. Modified atmospheres or controlled atmospheres are also maintained in some food packages. Keeping the contents clean, fresh, and safe for the intended shelf life is a primary function.
- Containment or agglomeration - Small items are typically grouped together in one direction package for reasons of efficiency. powders, and granular materials need containment.
- Information transmission - Packages and labels communicate how to use, transport, recycle, or dispose of the package or product. Some types of information are required by governments.
- Marketing - The packaging and labels can be used by marketers to encourage potential buyers to purchase the product. Package design has been an important and constantly evolving phenomenon for several decades. Marketing communications and graphic design are applied to the surface of the package and (in many cases) the point of sale display.
- Security - Packaging can play an important role in reducing the security risks of shipment. Packages can be made with improved tamper resistance to deter tampering and also can have tamper-evident features to help indicate tampering. Packages can be engineered to help reduce the risks of package pilferage: Some package constructions are more resistant to pilferage and some have pilfer indicating seals. Packages may include authentication seals to help indicate that the package and contents are not counterfeit. Packages also can include anti-theft devices, such as dye-packs, RFID tags, or electronic article surveillance tags, that can be activated or detected by devices at exit points and require specialized tools to deactivate. Using packaging in this way is a means of retail loss prevention.
- Convenience - Packages can have features which add convenience in distribution, handling, stacking, display, sale, opening, reclosing, use, and reuse.
- Portion control - Single serving packaging has a precise amount of contents to control usage. Bulk commodities (such as salt) can be divided into packages that are a more suitable size for individual households. It also aids the control of inventory: selling sealed one-liter-bottles of milk, rather than having people bring their own bottles to fill themselves.
Food packaging types
The above materials are fashioned into different types of food packages and containers such as:
|Packaging type||Type of container|
|Aseptic processing||Primary||Liquid whole eggs|
|Plastic trays||Primary||Portion of fish|
|Boxes||Secondary||Box of Cola|
|Cans||Primary||Can of Tomato soup.|
|Cartons||Primary||Carton of eggs|
|Flexible packaging||Primary||Bagged salad|
|Pallets||Tertiary||A series of boxes on a single pallet used to transport from the manufacturing plant to a distribution center.|
|Wrappers||Tertiary||Used to wrap the boxes on the pallet for transport.|
Primary packaging is the main package that holds the food that is being processed. Secondary packaging combines the primary packages into one box being made. Tertiary packaging combines all of the secondary packages into one pallet.
There are also special containers that combine different technologies for maximum durability:
- Bags-in-boxes (used for soft drink syrup, other liquid products, and meat products)
- Wine box (used for wine)
A choice of packaging machinery includes technical capabilities, labor requirements, worker safety, maintainability, serviceability, reliability, ability to integrate into the packaging line, capital cost, floorspace, flexibility (change-over, materials, etc.), energy usage, quality of outgoing packages, qualifications (for food, pharmaceuticals, etc.), throughput, efficiency, productivity, ergonomics, etc.
Packaging machines may be of the following general types:
- Blister, Skin and Vacuum Packaging Machines
- Capping, Over-Capping, Lidding, Closing, Seaming and Sealing Machines
- Cartoning machines
- Case and Tray Forming, Packing, Unpacking, Closing and Sealing Machines
- Check weighing machines
- Cleaning, Sterilizing, Cooling and Drying Machines
- Conveying, Accumulating and Related Machines
- Feeding, Orienting, Placing and Related Machines
- Filling Machines: handling liquid and powdered products
- Package Filling and Closing Machines
- Form, Fill and Seal Machines
- Inspecting, Detecting and Checkweighing Machines
- Palletizing, Depalletizing, Pallet Unitizing and Related Machines
- Product Identification: labelling, marking, etc.
- Wrapping Machines
- Converting Machines
- Other speciality machinery
Reducing food packaging
Reduced packaging and sustainable packaging are becoming more frequent. The motivations can be government regulations, consumer pressure, retailer pressure, and cost control. (Reduced packaging often saves packaging costs.)
In the UK, A Local Government Association survey produced by the British Market Research Bureau, compared a range of outlets to buy 29 common food items, found that small local retailers and market traders "produced less packaging and more that could be recycled than the larger supermarkets."
Trends in food packaging
Numerous reports industry associations agree that use of smart indicators will increase. There are a number of different indicators with different benefits for food producers, consumers and retailers.
Temperature recorders are used to monitor products shipped in a cold chain and to help validate the cold chain. Digital temperature data loggers measure and record the temperature history of food shipments. They sometimes have temperatures displayed on the indicator or have other output (lights, etc.): The data from a shipment can be downloaded (cable, RFID, etc.) to a computer for further analysis. These help identify if there has been temperature abuse of products and can help determine the remaining shelf life. They can also help determine the time of temperature extremes during shipment so corrective measures can be taken.
Time temperature indicators
- Time temperature indicators integrate the time and temperature experienced by the indicator and adjacent foods. Some use chemical reactions that result in a color change while others use the migration of a dye through a filter media. To the degree that these physical changes in the indicator match the degradation rate of the food, the indicator can help indicate probable food degradation.
Radio Frequency Identification is applied to food packages for supply chain control and has shown a significant benefit in allowing food producers and retailers create full real time visibility of their supply chain.
Plastic packaging being used is usually non-biodegradable due to possible interactions with the food. Also, biodegradable polymers often require special composting conditions to properly degrade. Normal sealed landfill conditions do not promote biodegradation.
Biodegradable plastics includes biodegradable films and coatings synthesized from organic materials and microbial polymers.
It is critical to maintain Food safety during processing, packaging, storage, logistics (including cold chain), sale, and use. Conformance to applicable regulations is mandatory. Some are country specific such as the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture; others are regional such as the European Food Safety Authority. Certification programs such as the Global Food Safety Initiative are sometimes used. Food packaging considerations may include: use of Hazard analysis and critical control points, Verification and validation protocols, Good manufacturing practices, use of an effective Quality management system, Track and trace systems, and requirements for label content. Special Food contact materials are used when the package is in direct contact with the food product. Depending on the packaging operation and the food, packaging machinery often needs specified daily wash-down and cleaning procedures.
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