Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been completely updated for accuracy, comprehensiveness, and new information.
No matter whether it’s boxed, canned, bottled, shrink wrapped, or vacuum sealed, the majority of the food we consume on a daily basis is packaged. The reason is simple – deterioration of the food starts almost immediately after its picked or prepared! To prevent any ill effects from this deterioration, food packaging is a necessity by helping prevent contamination when items are shipped and purchased, as well as creating a physical barrier that keeps out foreign objects. Proper food packaging also helps ensure products stay in optimum condition from distribution to point of use, ensuring quality remains high. Seems simple, right? Here’s where it gets a bit more complex.
What is Modified Atmosphere Packaging?
You may be familiar with the different types of food packaging, but have you heard of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)? MAP is a food preservation technique that packages food products in an atmosphere usually containing 78.08% nitrogen, 20.96% oxygen, and 0.03% carbon dioxide. During this process, the atmosphere’s temperature is lowered, which helps reduce the food products’ respiration rates and keeps the products from aging and ripening. Displacement of the oxygen inside the package also happens during this process, as too much O2 results in product spoilage. After the oxygen is removed, the packaging is filled with nitrogen gas to inhibit aerobic decay. This entire process is made possible by a robust nitrogen generation system.
Benefits of Modified Atmospheric Packaging (MAP)
With MAP, products stay fresh while maintaining their taste, texture, and appearance. Products that are commonly packaged using MAP include snacks, coffee, cheese, pasta, baked goods, sandwiches, and processed meats, as well as fresh-cut produce, like pre-packaged salads and fruit. Additional benefits of MAP include:
- Extends shelf life without the use of food additives
- Decreases oxygen levels to inhibit food decay during distribution
- Preserves food items for maximum freshness
- Reduces supply chain waste and the packaging’s carbon footprint
Chances are, if you’re shopping for any of these items at the grocery store, they’ve been packaged using MAP. Interested in learning more? Reach out to an Atlas Copco expert to assist!