Using Food-Grade Nitrogen in Food Packaging
In order to maintain a long shelf life and prevent spoilage, foods need to be packaged safely and securely. Maximizing food durability requires management of the type of packaging and even the type of air that is used during packaging.
In this blog post, we discuss the use of nitrogen gas in food packaging and its benefits.
What is Nitrogen Flushing in Food Packaging?
Nitrogen flushing in food processing is a technique used to prevent food from spoiling in storage. Several components of air (such as oxygen) damage food and hasten spoilage. For this reason, food packagers must carefully select the correct mix of gases to use while packing items to ensure that they stay fresh for consumers. One of the most popular and vital gases used in this process is food-grade nitrogen.
Why Is Nitrogen Gas Used in Food Packaging and Processing?
Nitrogen is a commonly found component of regular atmospheric air, but why is nitrogen gas in particular used in food packaging? Nitrogen is a popular gas for food packaging because it displaces oxygen. This is important because oxygen can carry moisture. Oxygen is used by bacteria to grow and thrive on organic material.
By removing as much oxygen as possible, bacteria find it more difficult to grow. Additionally, oxygen can cause foods to undergo oxidation, which can cause foods to become foul-smelling and inedible.
For example, if you’ve ever bitten into an apple and seen the fruit become dark and brown- that’s due to oxidation. The role of nitrogen gas in food preservation is to eliminate these problems by preventing oxygen from entering.
How Does the Nitrogen Packaging Process Work?
Nitrogen is forced into food packaging so the oxygen is displaced and filled with nitrogen gas instead. The packaging is quickly sealed and is then ready and stable for transport. In addition to keeping foods from going bad or stale, nitrogen flushing can also help cushion the products during transit (as you see with easily-crushable foods like chips).
Is Nitrogen Flushing Bad for You?
You may be wondering if the nitrogen flushing procedure is damaging in any way to your health. Rest assured, nitrogen-packed food is perfectly safe. In fact, 78% of the air you breathe is composed of nitrogen, which makes it a readily available and affordable option. It’s also odorless, making it the perfect choice for food packaging.
What Is Modified Atmosphere Packaging?
Modified atmosphere packaging is a form of packaging that considers the type of material needed to package the food material and the type of air required for ideal freshness. The material used can be either a low-permeability membrane type or a high-permeability type.
High-permeability membranes allow some air to pass freely between the packaging and the outside. Low-permeability membranes seal air in and prevent exposure to the outside environment.
Some food groups, like cheese or meat, are considered “non-respiring” products. This means that they do not require a constant flow of air to stay fresh. These foods are packaged using low-permeability type membranes with the optimal blend of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen to ensure the longest shelf life. Other food groups, like fruits, require flow of air and can be packaged with a high-permeability type membrane, which can be engineered to allow the ideal level of gas exchange.
Modified atmosphere packaging is a method of enhancing the shelf life of food products by packaging them in unique air mixtures that prevent spoilage. The packaging used for the food is tailored to the product to prevent undue passage of air that leads to spoilage.
How to Produce Nitrogen for Food Packaging
Using nitrogen gas in food packaging is a standard industry practice but buying or storing nitrogen can be costly and inefficient. Furthermore, using pressurized cylinders to store gas can be expensive and even dangerous in some situations.
The best way to use nitrogen for food packaging is to be able to produce it as needed. Portable nitrogen generators are a convenient and cost-effective solution that allows you to regulate nitrogen production as needed.
On-Site Nitrogen Generator for Food Packaging
Having an on-site nitrogen generator for food packaging is the most economical and sustainable solution for a variety of reasons. An on-site nitrogen unit grants you the convenience of having to continuously purchase and store nitrogen so you can avoid the potential risks and pitfalls of depending on a third-party supplier. You will also get the highest quality of nitrogen with minimal loss of produced gas.
NiGen Has Efficient Food-Grade Nitrogen Generators
NiGen produces portable membrane nitrogen units that are designed to fit any manufacturing plant’s nitrogen packaging needs. NiGen has been an industry leader in nitrogen membrane gas production since 1999.