The series of Industry Skills Advisers’ initiative aimed to increase skills in the packaging industry with Professor Harry Lovell OAM FAIP presenting the half day information session entitled, Food Packaging and the Extension of Shelf Life. The Australian Industry Group is working with the Victorian Government to offer industry tutorials in various facets of packaging technology and has enjoined the Australian Institute of Packaging to arrange the sessions and facilitators.
Nineteen companies sent their employees for the session. These comprised packaging technologists, marketing folk, suppliers and end users from the food industry.
Professor Lovell said that packaging and food are inextricable and packaging provides a range of opportunities from basic containment to the role of processing vessels, when considering the extension of shelf life. Fresh food and produce need specialised packaging technology and materials, all of which were addressed in the informative session.
According to Lovell, the extension of shelf life can be considered under three distinct headings:
- The slowing down of microbicidal activity by modification of the environment
- The elimination of viable micro-organisms and the inactivation of enzymes
- The reduction of water activity
Three ways to extend shelf life and how to achieve the optimum outcome was discussed in length along with the risks involved. For instance, refrigeration can extend shelf life and eliminate the risk of spoilage but with alteration to the nature of the product. Any action that modifies the nature of the product has both positive and negative outcomes but all of them can be managed.
Food, from the point of sale, needs to look good but consumers still like to feel and smell fresh food, which is contrary to the protection afforded by packaging.
The different packaging materials and the processing of each of were segmented and addressed. In the segment dealing with Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), the salient qualification “it is no good having MAP if you are not going to store it properly” was delivered.
Professor Lovell also explained the concept of packaging rage, a new phenomenon related to consumers who struggle to open packages. One consumer reported that after several attempts to break the vacuum seal on a jar, it was simply dropped on the floor and the contents retrieved.
PCR or Port Consumer Recycling was also addressed during the session. In Europe, there are concerns that some PCR material can be a major cause of chemical contamination. This led to a discussion about functional barriers to alleviate contamination.