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Technology, Nitrogen Generators

Let’s Get Chemical: Why Food Spoils and How Nitrogen Can Help


Have you ever noticed the extra space inside a bag of popcorn or chips? It may seem like an accident, but that gas inside plays a special roll in keeping food safe and fresh. Nitrogen is used to preserve packaged foods during shipping and storage.  Food manufacturers can produce it on-site, and it has different properties than ambient air. But before we dive into why on-site nitrogen benefits manufacturers (and consumers), let’s take a step back and examine why it’s necessary in the first place.

Air is just air…right?

Atmospheric air is made up of numerous gasses, including argon, carbon dioxide and helium, but it is mostly nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (20%). While oxygen is necessary for our survival, it can cause problems when it comes into contact with food. There are multiple ways oxygen can cause food to spoil, including microorganism growth and enzyme damage.

Microorganisms and enzymes love oxygen

Just like humans, most microorganisms need oxygen to live and grow. These microorganisms can be aerobic bacteria, yeast or mold, and some can make people sick when ingested.

When natural enzymes in food react with oxygen, food spoils quickly. This sped-up reaction (also called catalyzing) can happen with a variety of natural enzymes. Two of the most common are catatlase and peroxidase; these are responsible for the darkening of sliced fruits and veggies.

On-site nitrogen to the rescue

Oxygen can cause microbe growth and enzyme reactions that range from irritating to dangerous, so it’s important that food manufacturers remove oxygen from packaged foods. By displacing the ambient air with nitrogen, manufacturers reduce the risk of unwanted chemical reactions.

Manufacturers who produce nitrogen on-site have a readily available, highly pure supply of food-preserving gas. With Atlas Copco oil-free air and nitrogen generators, food manufacturers can us 99.9% pure nitrogen to keep food fresh and consumers safe.


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