Active Packaging Keeps Meat Fresh for Longer
To date, supermarkets have only been able to keep products on their meat counters for a few days. But now researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising, Germany, have developed an antimicrobial active packaging film that destroys the microorganisms on the product surface, thereby increasing the shelf life not only of fresh meat, but also of fish, cheese and other cold cuts.
When it comes to quality, consumers make very high demands: They want ready-to-use, pre-portioned foods that will remain fresh and retain their attractive appearance for days. This is particularly true as regards meat and cold cuts. However, while freshly slaughtered meat is virtually sterile, it generally becomes contaminated with microorganisms - feces from hides and skins, germs on tools, hands or in rinsing water - during subsequent cutting and processing stages. Consequently, supermarket meat that initially looks very appetizing tends to change color, texture and even smell within a few days. These changes are caused by chemical, physical and microbiological processes, e.g. the formation of biogenic amines, which occur as microorganisms on the meat that breed and thrive. Around 20 different species of bacteria, yeasts and molds are known to play a part.
Recently, antimicrobial active packaging has opened the door to the possibility of maintaining product quality and safety over a longer period of time. According to EU Regulation 450/2009, these types of material can extend the shelf life of packaged foods, and are permitted to incorporate components specifically designed to release substances into or onto the food in question. This kind of packaging has already been introduced in Japan, where silver, wasabi and ethanol are among the active ingredients used.
Carolin Hauser, a food chemist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising, has now developed and tested a new, lacquer-based antimicrobial active film which incorporates a controlled release mechanism.