Editorial Feature

Recent Innovations in Advanced Packaging

Advanced packaging has been the center of focus in recent years as the world is shifting towards sustainable practices and environmental preservation. The recent developments in advanced packaging solutions for the food and beverage industry have highlighted the interest of consumers in packaging that promotes environmental sustainability.

Advanced Packaging, Innovations in Advanced Packaging, edible packaging, smart packaging

Image Credit: Igor Kovalchuk/Shutterstock.com

Edible Packaging: The Front Runner in Advanced Packaging Technologies

Advanced packaging mechanisms play a vital role in reducing food waste and ensuring the maintenance of quality during storage. An incredible challenge faced by the food industry is the development of sustainable advanced packaging systems while simultaneously minimizing environmental impacts. Recently, there has been a lot of focus on edible packaging, driven by increased consumer concerns related to health, food safety, nutrition, and environmental preservation in the context of packaging waste.

The latest article published in Applied Sciences reveals that edible packaging materials are composed of compounds that are safe for human consumption, posing no health risks. With slight adjustments in material composition and structure, researchers can transform these materials into diverse types of films, coatings, and advanced packaging. The thickness of these edible films plays a crucial role, with the ideal thickness typically being less than 0.3 mm.

Edible food packaging is primarily available in two distinct forms: edible films and edible coatings. These forms differ in their physical state and applications. Edible films are produced as solid laminated sheets and used as food wraps, which can be either consumed or removed when eating. In contrast, advanced packaging fabricated in the form of coatings is applied to food in a liquid state through methods like coating, spraying, or immersion. Once dried, they create an edible layer over the food, which can also be either consumed or removed.

Several companies and start-ups, primarily in the United States, are actively working on the commercial development of edible advanced packaging materials. The global edible packaging market had a value of USD 0.84 billion in 2021, and it is projected to reach approximately USD 2.8 billion by 2030. This is expected to result from an average annual growth rate of 14.31% during the forecast period spanning from 2022 to 2030.

Smart Packaging Solution: A Key to Sustainable Future

Advanced food packaging goes beyond its conventional role of protecting and promoting products. It also incorporates an active function that enables advanced packaging to actively participate in food preservation during processing and storage, ensuring the safety and quality of food across the entire distribution chain.

Researchers from Italy, in a recent article in the journal Foods, have specified that smart packaging is a functional combination of intelligent and active packaging technologies. Both of these are distinct types of advanced packaging. The key discrepancy lies in the fact that intelligent packaging primarily monitors the condition of the packaged product without directly affecting the food, while active packaging actively influences the environment surrounding the food to extend its shelf life.

In Europe, active and intelligent advanced packaging must comply with the legislation governing food-contact materials. This involves assessing factors such as overall migration limits (OMLs), specific migration limits (SMLs), and toxicological properties to ensure their safety and suitability for use with food products.

Biodegradable Advanced Packaging

Conventional packaging utilized for commercial and domestic purposes is composed of petroleum-based plastics. These plastics are not biodegradable and are a threat to the environment, causing significant damage to aquatic ecosystems. However, in recent years, biodegradable polymers have emerged as a sustainable alternative to conventional plastics, especially for industrial applications.

The article published in Current Research in Food Science reveals that biodegradable advanced packaging material is classified into three main groups. Biodegradable packaging can be manufactured using biomass or natural materials by a classical chemical synthetic process using monomers, or microorganisms can be utilized for producing biodegradable advanced packaging.

The development of biodegradable packaging involves the addition of various compounds such as additives, antioxidants, and stabilizers. However, this introduces the potential for chemical migration, causing human exposure to these compounds. To ensure the safety of such packaging materials for humans, different assay methods are employed to assess in-vitro toxicity during the manufacturing phase.

A major application technique of biodegradable packaging is modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). It is a widely employed advanced packaging technique for preserving agricultural products, especially fruits and vegetables.

It works by modifying the gaseous composition within the package's headspace. This advanced technology works by significantly slowing down the ripening of fruits. This is usually brought about by carefully adjusting the levels of oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Additionally, MAP technology is beneficial in preventing water loss and fruit shriveling by maintaining a high-humidity environment with relative humidity levels ranging from 90% to 95%.

What is Food Irradiation Technology?

Food irradiation involves the bombardment of ionizing radiations to food specimens to improve safety and extend the shelf life. The irradiation process removes harmful bacteria and eliminates microorganisms.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is tasked with regulating the sources of radiation utilized for food irradiation. The FDA approves radiation sources to be used on food only after confirming that the process is safe and poses no harm to consumers. Three sources are safe for utilization during the irradiation process: the gamma rays, X-rays, and electron beams.

Gamma rays are discharged from radioactive variations of Cobalt or Cesium. The other verified source is the X-rays, efficiently produced by optimally directing a high-energy electron flow toward a target substance.

The X-rays are utilized in the irradiation process to preserve the food items for a longer time. The third and final irradiation source, an electron beam (or e-beam), directs a stream of high-energy electrons generated by an electron accelerator toward the food products to eliminate germs. NASA astronauts consume irradiated meat to prevent foodborne illnesses while in space. This process sterilizes the meat, ensuring it is safe for consumption during space missions.

A Brief Introduction to Barrier Packaging

Barrier packaging is a novel technology that involves creating a barrier to shield the food items from being exposed to oxygen, moisture, and other environmental factors, thereby preserving their quality and safety.

Barrier packaging materials are categorized into two main groups: barrier materials and sealants. Barrier materials such as metalized films and aluminum foils are characterized by having low permeability to moisture and environmental factors.

On the other hand, sealants such as polyethylene and polypropylene are employed to establish a protective barrier between the food product and the outer barrier materials. The high adsorption capability of barrier packaging enables them to preserve the food sustainably.

Modern technologies and advanced packaging solutions are intended to keep food and beverage items fresh and safe with a greater shelf life. Recent technological advancements, such as the incorporation of nanoparticles in modern packaging, enhance their mechanical properties and thermal resistivity.

Modern innovations ensure that the advanced packaging domain is expected to have a brighter future, contributing to sustainability and ecological preservation.

More from AZoM: Fighting Plastic Waste with Edible Food Packaging

References and Further Reading

Anon., (2023). Food Packaging Technologies and Trends. [Online]
Available at: https://www.deskera.com/blog/food-packaging-technologies-and-trends/

U.S. Food & Drug Administration, (2023). Food Irradiation: What You Need to Know. [Online]
Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/food-irradiation-what-you-need-know

Shaikh, S. et. al. (2021). An overview of biodegradable packaging in food industry. Current Research in Food Science4, 503-520. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crfs.2021.07.005

Nair et. al. (2023). Edible Packaging: A Technological Update for the Sustainable Future of the Food Industry.  Applied Sciences. 13(14). 8234. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/app13148234

Drago E et. al. (2020). Innovations in Smart Packaging Concepts for Food: An Extensive Review. Foods. 9(11). 1628. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/foods911162

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Ibtisam Abbasi

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Ibtisam Abbasi

Ibtisam graduated from the Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering. During his academic career, he has worked on several research projects and has successfully managed several co-curricular events such as the International World Space Week and the International Conference on Aerospace Engineering. Having won an English prose competition during his undergraduate degree, Ibtisam has always been keenly interested in research, writing, and editing. Soon after his graduation, he joined AzoNetwork as a freelancer to sharpen his skills. Ibtisam loves to travel, especially visiting the countryside. He has always been a sports fan and loves to watch tennis, soccer, and cricket. Born in Pakistan, Ibtisam one day hopes to travel all over the world.

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