Active Packaging

Present and future trends in packaging technology include the development of packages that actively interact with the product or headspace, improving and maintaining the quality of the packaged product. These packaging systems are known as active packaging. Materials with oxygen, carbon dioxide, ethanol or ethylene scavenging or generation characteristics are already in commercial use (1).

For products sensitive to oxygen, such as fermented and cured meat products, the use of materials with oxygen-scavenging characteristics results in an extended shelf life. The scavengers decrease the oxygen initially available in the headspace and retain oxygen passing through the package walls due to permeation processes. There are two procedures for the manufacture of a package with scavenging properties. Traditionally, the scavenger was introduced in the package by means of a small pouch manufactured with an unbreakable material (such as Tyvek). However, this procedure is being questioned because this pouch, containing substances that may be toxic, is in direct contact with the food product. Currently, materials are being developed in which scavengers are introduced within the walls of the package, providing similar scavenging properties while being unnoticed by the consumer. The scavenger may be active from the moment it is manufactured but it can also be prepared in such a way as to act at a later stage (at the packaging line) (10).

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