In this article, you will learn about the types of materials used in food packaging, the impact of food packaging on the environment, and the role of food packaging in the food supply chain.
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Food packaging roles
The main function of food packaging is to protect food products from external influences and damage. Traceability and convenience are the most important secondary function.
The goal of food packaging is to preserve food in a cost-effective manner that meets the requirements of the industry and the wishes of the consumer.
It also minimizes the environmental impact and maintains food security.
Protection / preservation:
Food packaging can slow down product spoilage, maintain or increase the quality and safety of food, preserve the beneficial effects of processing, and extend shelf life.
In doing so, packaging provides protection against three main classes of external influences, namely physical, chemical, and biological.
Chemical protection will minimize changes in composition caused by environmental influences such as light, moisture, and gas. Many different packaging materials will provide a chemical barrier.
Glass and metals will provide an absolute barrier to chemical agents and other environmental agents. The closure devices may contain materials that allow minimum levels of permeability.
Plastic packaging offers a wide range of barrier properties. But it is more permeable than glass or metal.
Proper physical packaging also protects consumers from different hazards. For example, childproof closures make access to many dangerous products difficult.
Containment and reduction of food waste
Inadequate transportation, preservation / protection and storage have been cited as causes of food waste.
Packaging will reduce total waste by extending the shelf life of food, thus extending its usability.
Rathje et al. (1985) found that the per capita waste generated in Mexico City contained more food waste.
Furthermore, Rathje et al. (1985) have observed that packaged foods produce 2.5% of total waste compared to fifty percent for fresh foods since agricultural by-products collected at the processing plant are used for other purposes while those generated at home are typically discarded.
Therefore, packaging can contribute to the reduction of total solid waste.
Marketing and information
A package is the face of a product and is the only product exposure that consumers can experience before a purchase.
Consequently, distinctive or innovative packaging increases sales in a competitive environment.
The package can be designed to enhance the product image and / or differentiate the product from the competition. The packaging also provides information to the consumer.
For example, package labeling meets legal requirements for manufacturer information, product identification, nutritional value, ingredient declaration, and net weight.
In addition, the package communicates important pricing information, cooking instructions, and brand identification. All of these improvements can affect waste disposal.
Traceability has 3 objectives:
- To improve supply management
- to facilitate tracing for food safety and quality purposes
- Differentiate market foods with subtle or imperceptible quality attributes.
Food manufacturing companies today incorporate unique codes on the labels of their products. This allows them to track their products during the distribution process.
The codes are available in different formats. For example, Electronic Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)) and printed barcodes. It can be read manually and / or by machine.
As a consequence, packaging plays a very important role in minimizing the effort required to prepare and serve food.
Microwave-safe packaging, oven-safe trays, and boiled bags allow consumers to cook a complete meal with virtually no preparation.
Advances in food packaging have facilitated the development of modern business formats that offer consumers the convenience of one-stop shopping and the availability of food from around the world.
Convenience also influences the amount and type of packaging waste that requires disposal.
Deliberate handling of food and pharmaceuticals has resulted in special packaging features that are designed to reduce the risk of tampering and adulteration.
Evidence of violation features cannot be easily replaced.
The tamper evidence feature includes rupture closures, special membranes, and special printing on bottle liners or composite cans such as graphics or text.
The special print also contains holograms that cannot be easily duplicated. An example of this is a heat seal used on medical packaging that is chemically formulated to change color when opened.
Packaging may serve other functions, such as a provider for bonuses (for example, the inclusion of a gift, additional product or coupon) or containers for domestic use.
The primary purpose of food packaging is to maintain food quality, safety, and wholesomeness.
The impact of packaging waste on the environment will be minimized by carefully choosing materials, reviewing packaging expectations in terms of environmental impact, and following EPA guidelines.
The informed efforts of consumers, industry, and government can promote continuous improvement.