Optimal packaging solutions may prevent or minimize quality changes, thus resulting in both increased shelf life and maintained quality. Packaging requirements are linked to the practices and goals of the producer and include initial product composition, production line requirements, marketing aspects, secondary packaging method (including packaging used for display of the products), distribution method, shelf life required, waste treatment practices, and price. Hence, different types of cheeses call for different types of packaging concept. The following lists examples of packaging materials used for packaging of individual products, and as such can be used for inspiration. Table 1 briefly summarizes important characteristics of packaging materials used for cheeses, both as monolayers and as part of more complex packaging concepts. Final selection should be based on extensive evaluations and should be carried out in collaboration with the packaging suppliers.
Cheeses are normally classified according to their moisture level (53). However, the following subdivision of cheeses focuses on their packaging requirements rather than on their composition.
This category comprises slow-drainage, acidified cheeses characterized by a moisture content greater than 80% (54,55). Main types of fresh cheese include cottage cheese, quark, cream cheese, and Petit Suisse. The packaging should protect these products against light, oxygen, loss of moisture and aroma, and contamination, as well as provide sufficient mechanical stability.
Most fresh cheeses are packaged in atmospheric air due to the short shelf life required. However, modified atmosphere packaging may be used to prevent mold growth (e.g., in cottage cheese or in decorated cream cheeses). Gases with low residual oxygen and high carbon dioxide levels may be used to ensure microbial stability (56-59).
Cream cheeses are pasteurized prior to packaging, and therefore spoiling microorganisms may stem from cross-contaminations (surroundings or packaging materials). Hot filling of the product may be applied to overcome cross contamination from the packaging materials. Some of the cream cheeses are decorated with spices, herbs, nuts, or fruits, which also may be a source of contamination. These cheeses are typically packaged in atmospheres with high CO2 contents. Gonzalez-Fandos et al. (31) noted that for
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