Which Gases can be Used for Creating Modified Atmosphere Packaging
Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) is a well-known technique for creating an artificial atmosphere inside the packaging using specific gases. Read on to know which gases can be used for meeting your MAP requirements.
MAP with Oxygen
When we talk MAP, oxygen is inevitably mentioned for its obvious role. Normally, you would think MAP is only created with displacement of oxygen out of the packaging for preventing food deterioration due to oxidation and growth of microbes.
There are instances when oxygen is actually added for generating a modified atmosphere. It is an odorless and colorless gas which is added to red meat used in processing to keep red hue and freshness. Moreover, used this way it can also destroy the growth of anaerobic organisms.
Creating MAP with Nitrogen
Nitrogen is synonymous with creating MAP primarily because of its property of being an inert, tasteless and colourless gas. And getting food grade nitrogen is easy and cost-effective if you install nitrogen gas plant. Moreover, food-grade nitrogen must have purity level not less than 99% making it the best tool for displacing oxygen to stop food degradation due to oxidation and growth of microbes. On top of it, the inert gas is very slow in leaking out of the oxidation and preventing growth of microbes.
Argon and MAP
Another gas that is used in producing MAP is argon though it is not as commonly used as nitrogen. Argon is inert, odourless and tasteless just like nitrogen. However, it is expensive to use as it cannot generated on demand and has to be supplied through cylinders. The scarcity makes its use prohibitive for using to create MAP although it is as effective as nitrogen.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and MAP
Carbon dioxide is popular because of its effectiveness in creating a MAP. It is known to prevent oxidation and inhibit growth of microbes. However, if the right amount of CO2 is not used it might turn the food sour. Another drawback of CO2 is that it diffuses easily through the packaging compared to nitrogen or argon. Still further, it also tends to be absorbed into food which can damage the packaging. It can be beneficial in some types of packaging such as hard cheeses. Mostly, you should avoid using it.
Achieving MAP with Carbon Monoxide (CO)
It can be used for creating MAP especially for retaining the redness and freshness of red meat. As it is prohibited for use in EU and numerous other countries, you will not find many businesses using it for modified packaging.
Packaging Specification for MAP
There are specific instructions for details to be displayed on the level. As per EU Regulation 95/2/EC, the MAP gases must be listed with their E number as given below. The manufacturers also have the option to write the ingredient list and display that the product has been packaged in ‘Packaged in a protective atmosphere’.
Oxygen : E 948
Nitrogen : E 941
Argon : E 938
Carbon Dioxide : E 290