Pixie Dust to ‘magically’ sterilize stand-up pouches and bag-in-box

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Pixie Dust to ‘magically’ sterilize stand-up pouches and bag-in-box

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Performance Packaging has launched an alternative aseptic process to sterilize flexible packaging and its contents, avoiding hot-filling, retort processing, peroxide or peracetic baths and sprays, irradiation, pulsed light or electron-beam irradiation.

The patented process code-named ‘Pixie Dust’ features a ‘liquid-to-gas’ sterilization process and the company, based in Nevada, US, with clients including Russell Stover Candies, RW Garcia, Tom Clark Confections and Baby Gourmet Foods, is now working with various companies to identify additional markets and partners.

Rapid, in-line sterilization prior to filling

Rob Reinders, president, Performance Packaging, told ConfectioneryNews, the development is thanks to the work of Dr Joseph Dunn, who joined the firm earlier this year as vice president of research and development and regulatory affairs.

He said the company is also creating improvements that predict rapid, in-line sterilization prior to filling but he could not disclose any more details due to the competitive nature of the patent process.

The very nature of our innovative work on improving aseptic packaging technologies dictates that we cannot reveal certain information​,” said Reinders.

Although we have secured an important patent for our initial achievement, there is still much work to be accomplished regarding future applications for provisional patents as well as full patents​.

Pixie Dust is a cost-saving alternative to traditional shelf-stable methods​.

We are currently seeking worldwide partners in the pharmaceutical and food industries to implement this technology that crosses many platforms including device sterilization as well as the foodstuff shelf life extension​.”

Plastic, glass, or metal objects, can be sterilized

Products such as enclosed plastic, glass, or metal objects, can be sterilized within the package, and the method makes aseptic cold-fill processes possible. 

Industry applications for Pixie Dust include flexible packaging such as stand-up pouches, bag-in-box, or any sealed package.

According to Dunn, it has dramatically reduced the cost of the sterilization process to one cent (1¢) of agent which can treat approximately 750,000 pouches.

In contrast, large volumes of peroxide (such as 250 gallons of high-concentration H2​O2​ and hot, sterile air are required to sterilize a similar number of form-fill-seal packages.

During tests, Performance Packaging added the organism Bacillus atrophaeus ATCC 9372 ​spores (which are highly resistant to heat and chemicals such as H2​O2​) to the package contents. A specific quantity of the Pixie Dust agent was then inserted into the package. 

Polyolefin milk bags

After about two days, no viable spores were recovered from any of the treated samples, which included inoculations of 4-liter, hot-fill bag-in-box, 55-gallon-drum bags and 2½ gallon polyolefin milk bags.

The corners and gusset fold tests, along with laboratory-scale filling tests of treated pouches revealed no sign of bacterial growth.

There is no need to irradiate the package and it does not need to be hot-filled or require post-pasteurization, since the pouch is already sterile​,” added Dunn.

The benefits of Pixie Dust include: a low-cost process that features GRAS (‘Generally Recognized as Safe”) materials; process residuals are below the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) “Threshold of Regulation”; sterilization can occur during storage or shipping and is achieved in less than 48 hours at room temperature; and use of the pixie dust procedure is smell- and taste-neutral.​”

Dunn has more than 30 years of experience in industrial biochemistry and microbiology relating to packaging research. He is also the inventor of the use of pulsed light for packaging sterilization and the author of more than 25 patents related to packaging industry safety processes. Throughout his career, he has worked closely with the US FDA.

Founded in 1995, Performance Packaging is a supplier of flexible and folding carton packaging, including coffee bags, roll stock, spouted and zippered pouches, and pre-made retortable pouches. 

Products include surface-printed Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), CCNB materials to Litho Laminate B-flute cartons, and shrink materials such as PET, OPS, and PVC OPP. 

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