Successful food products greatly depend on their compliance with Commonwealth and state Food Standards legislation. Not only does the food itself have to satisfy health and safety requirements, but both the design of the packaging and the method used to process the food is also vital.
There are several different types of food processing methods that can satisfy consumer law and Food Standards legislation. However, each processing method presents its limits, challenges, opportunities and costs that can affect a range of aspects of your packaging. Both quality and shelf life are just two of them. Before deciding on which processing method to go with for your food products, it is important to understand what these different methods involve and the implications will they have on your packaging.
Below is an overview of some of the most common food processing methods that you might like to consider:
Also known as retorting, retort sterilization is a thermal food processing method whereby the food is firstly prepared, either raw or cooked, and then vacuum-sealed into what is called a retort pouch. The thermal sterilisation part follows where the sealed retort pouch is then heated for several minutes under extremely high temperatures inside a retort machine. This targets microorganisms to either kill them or reduce their spores to acceptable levels.
Retorting sterilisation consequently allows for a longer shelf life, ensuring the food preserves its natural flavour and freshness for months or years. The food product is made to last in a room temperature environment without the need of refrigeration.
Retorting can also be applied for pasteurization. With pasteurization, the food requires refrigeration and has a shorter shelf life.
However, one of the main packaging implications of retorting is that the packaging material has to be able to withstand the high temperatures of the thermal processing used for sterilisation. It must also resist mild pressure. Furthermore, the nutrients and quality of the food can be significantly impacted and at different rates depending on the type of food.
Nevertheless, since the food packaging is done before processing, the risks of re-contamination are reduced greatly. Subsequently, the retorting processing method can be used on solids, semi-solids, liquid particulates and liquids. The suitable packaging material includes glass containers, plastic pouches, metallized pouches and metal or plastic cans and trays.
Aseptic processing and packaging
This process is similar to retorting as it can be applied for pasteurization or sterilisation. However, aseptic processing entails brief exposure of ultra-high heat on the food products why are then instantly cooled to an ambient temperature. This tends to generate better quality products as heating and cooling of the product can be done faster.
The food is then placed in appropriate containers or packaging. The packaging is formed and sterilised on-site and sealed within the same sterile environment. Rectangular cartons are most suitable in aseptic packaging because compared to bottles and other rigid containers, they save storage space in warehouses and in shipping.
Microwave-assisted thermal sterilisation (MATS)
Microwave-assisted thermal sterilisation process is a new approach inspired by retort sterilisation. It involves briefly placing packaged food in pressurised hot water which is heated by microwaves.
These microwaves also zap the food internally allowing it to become sterile quickly. The food is then instantly cooled to prevent heat damage. With water being used as a heating medium, there is better penetration and a more uniform heating outcome is achieved.
MATS is generally thought to be a more effective method of preserving flavour, nutrients, texture and colour than retorting. MATS can also cut the processing time required for conventional sterilisation from. However, packaging for MATS requires that packaging material is transparent.
High-barrier plastic pouches and trays that are microwavable are the best-suited packaging materials for this processing method. Solids, semi-solids, particulates in liquids and liquid food can all be processed.
Ultra-high-pressure processing (UHP/HPP)
Ultra-high-pressure processing involves placing packaged foods in high-pressure vessels or containers which are filled with water. The containers are pressurised to reach almost double the pressure at the deepest point in the ocean.
After around 5 minutes the pressure is reduced and the packages are taken out from the high-pressure containers. The pressure allows the foods that contain moisture to shrink up to 20 percent. The packaging materials used have to be flexible to accommodate the effect.
High-intensity light pulse processing (HILP)
This processing method involves non-thermal technology that targets microorganism on the surface of foods and packaging materials with pulses of UV light. Using this method requires transparent packaging material in order to allow the UV light to penetrate.
Choosing the right packaging process is fundamental to the success of your food product. At the Star Stuff Group, we can provide you with the perfect packaging solution for your food and a variety of other products too. Not only can we help you enhance your brand promotion in store, but we can help increase your product’s growth and success!
Contact us today to find out more or request one of our services. You may call, email or fill out our easy online contact form and your message will be directly sent to one of our friendly and professional staff members who will respond as soon as they can. Or you are welcome to visit us in store today. If your planning a exhibition we can also provide you a Promotion Stand with all sorts of advertising and promotional material
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