Active packaging has opened the door to extending shelf life by continuing the process of maintaining product quality and safety even once products have left the factory. Japan has pioneered such packaging products using active ingredients such as silver, wasabi and ethanol to increase the time packaged foods can spend on supermarket shelves.
Under EU regulation 450/2009, the EU food industry is now permitted to incorporate certain components into packs to release substances into or onto foods to extend shelf life.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging in Freising, Germany, has therefore been working on the creation of new, effective active packaging technologies.
This work has led to the development of a lacquer-based antimicrobial active film that incorporates a controlled release mechanism.
Food chemist Carolin Hauser, who was behind the innovation, elected to use sorbic acid as the active agent and dissolved it on a lacquer before depositing it on a base film .
To test the effectiveness of the packaging, Hauser contaminated several pieces of pork loin with 1,000 colony forming units of the E. coli pathogen a day after slaughter. She then wrapped some in active film and some in standard film and left them in a fridge for seven days at 8oC.
Explaining the results, the food chemist said: “After a week, the total germ count on the surface had decreased significantly compared to the meat packed in untreated film.
“This indicates that our active film is suitable for maintaining the freshness – and above all the safety – of meat preparations, fish fillets and other cold cuts.”