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Research in Food Packaging

Investigators
Welt, Bruce
Institutions
University of Florida
Start date
2010
End date
2015
Objective
Packaging serves many functions required to deliver food products to consumers. Packaging helps to contain, protect and preserve foods while providing other value to consumers such as information and convenience. Food packaging failures can lead to widespread illness and death and/or financial costs. Improvement to any role of packaging adds value to society in the form of new or improved capabilities, new products and services and/or improved resource utilization efficiencies.

This research targets four areas for improvement of food packaging including testing and measurement, materials, product-package interactions and distribution.

Testing and measurement - Since oxygen affects many foods, measurement of oxygen transmission rates of packaging materials and oxygen content of packages is critical to optimal food package design. Improving measurement cost, time and accuracy are necessary to improving food packaging.

Materials - Use of plastics has been increasing for combinations of properties including durability, light weight, variable opacity and flexibility. When one material fails to provide all necessary properties, multilayer structures may be designed. Current sustainability trends do not favor multilayer materials because they are difficult to recycle or reuse. Efforts in this area include evaluation of new packaging biopolymers, development of nano-barrier coatings to improve properties of existing monolithic materials, development of new packaging biopolymers and sourcing precursor molecules for common materials from sustainable sources.

Product-Package Interactions - Products should not interact with packaging. However, intimate and prolonged contact makes interactions unavoidable. Little data have been published on migration of packaging material additives and adjuvants from microwavable and/or ovenable materials into foods. Additionally, pathogenic bacteria continue to be implicated in many food product recalls. Irradiation continues to offer promise as a final pathogen "kill-step" for packaged foods, such as meats, poultry, fish and other foods. While food irradiation is becoming increasingly recognized as a safe and effective means of ensuring pathogen-free foods, relatively little work has been done on the fate of packaging film additives after irradiation. Therefore, work is needed to better understand the nature, quantity and migration properties of radiolytic products from packaging materials and their additives.

Distribution - Food product recalls often result in enormous quantities of otherwise good product to be discarded resulting in major supply chain disruptions and financial losses. Improving accuracy and scope of food product recalls is a significant area of focus of this research program. Methods for carrying data include one and two dimensional barcodes, radio frequency identification (RFID), human readable data, geometric symbologies, etc. Work is needed to ensure efficient and accurate data transfer from package to supply chain intelligence systems. Additionally, supply chains are physically demanding to products. Food packaging is often viewed as primary, secondary and tertiary.

More information
Non-Technical Summary: Packaging serves many functions required to deliver food products to consumers. Packaging helps to contain, protect and preserve foods while providing other value to consumers such as information and convenience. Food packaging failures can lead to widespread illness and death and/or financial loses. Improvement to any role of packaging adds value to society in the form of new or improved capabilities, new products and services and/or improved resource utilization efficiencies. This research program targets four areas for improvement of food packaging including testing and measurement, materials, product-package interactions and distribution.

Approach: Procedures Gas permeation projects use well established procedures involving recording oxygen accumulation over time. Data reduction techniques are described in Abdellatief and Welt (2009). Product-Package Interactions - This work will involve identification of radiolytic products, radiolytic product generation kinetics and evaluation of radiolytic product migration into food simulating solvents. Identification of radiolytic products and kinetic parameter estimations will involve exposure of chemical additives to different doses of ionizing radiation in the range of 0 to 50 kGy. Chemical samples will then be dissolved in appropriate solvents and analyzed using standard HPLC and HPLC+MS techniques. Migration studies will be performed in accordance with commonly used methods using FDA prescribed food simulating solvents. Distribution - Stochastic supply chain models will be developed and used as a basis to evaluate food product traceability queries in distributed networks. Commercially available hardware will be evaluated and compared for performance and useability. Shock, drop and vibration testing will be performed using equipment designed for such use.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
FLA-ABE-005086
Accession number
224739
Categories
Packaging Residues
Food Defense and Integrity
Chemical Contaminants
Heavy Metals