Using Nitrogen Gas in Food Packaging
As you know, foods need to be packaged safely in order to maintain a long shelf life. But did you know that maximizing food durability and preventing spoilage also requires management of the type of packaging and even the type of air that is used during packaging?
Some components of normal air, such as oxygen, damage food and speed up 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 nitrogen.
Why Is Nitrogen Used in Food Packaging?
Nitrogen is a commonly found component of regular atmospheric air, but why is nitrogen gas used in food packaging?
Nitrogen is a popular gas used in packaging because it displaces oxygen. This is important, because oxygen can carry moisture. In addition, oxygen is used by bacteria to grow and thrive on organic material. By removing as much oxygen as possible, bacteria will have a harder time to grow. In addition, oxygen by itself can cause foods to undergo oxidation, which can make them become foul-smelling and inedible.
For example, if you’ve ever bitten into an apple and seen the fruit become dark and brown, you witnessed oxidation happening. By preventing oxygen from entering the packaging, all of these problems can be eliminated.
What Is Modified Atmosphere Packaging?
Modified atmosphere packaging is a form of packaging that takes into account the type of material needed to package the food material in addition to the type of air required. 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 exchange with the outside.
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 by using low permeability type membranes with the optimal blend of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen that ensures 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.
In brief, modified atmosphere packaging is a method of enhancing 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. Buying or storing nitrogen can be costly and inefficient. Further, using pressurized cylinders to store gas can be costly and 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.
Onsite nitrogen system suppliers, NiGen, provide portable membrane nitrogen units can be skid-mounted and designed to fit any manufacturing plant’s needs. NiGen has been an industry leader in nitrogen membrane gas production since 1999. For more information, visit us or call today.