A package is the “face” of product contained inside and often is only product exposure that consumers experience prior to purchase.Generally,we have seen that efficient packaging boosts the sales in market.But have you ever thought what is this packaging all about,what is the need of it and why the food companies are much more concerned about it? So,this article will answer all your questions.Food packaging plays a very crucial role in protecting the food products from outside influences and damage.The principle role of food packaging is to protect the food products from microbial attack,exposure to gases(mainly oxygen) and moisture so as to extend the shelf life of the commodity.Lets go through Aseptic Packaging.
What Is Aseptic Packaging?
There are many methods of food packaging under which the most significant packaging is Aseptic packaging. The term aseptic is derived from greek word “septicos” which means absence of putrefactive microorganisms.Aseptic packaging is the filling of sterile containers with a commercially sterile product under aseptic conditions and then hermetically (strict air tight condition) sealing the product so that reinfection is prevented.The purpose of aseptic packaging is to produce an food item which can be stored without refrigeration for 6 months or more while maintaining chemical and sensory properties.
Examples Of Aseptic Packaging
Milk is heated to 275- 300 degree Fahrenheit for 2-15 seconds. It is then cooled to temperature suitable for filling.This is now called UHT Milk(Ultra high temperature). Packaging materials are sterilized through heated hydrogen peroxide bath which is then removed from packaging material using pressure rollers,hot and sterile air.
The fruit juice is heat treated ,chilled and then packed in sterile environment on an aseptic filling machine into presterilized packaging.
Applications Of Aseptic Packaging
- Packaging of Presterilized and sterile products.
Example-Milk and dairy products ,puddings,desserts,fruits and vegetables.
- Packaging of non sterile products to avoid infection by microorganism
Example-Fermented dairy products like yogurt.
Basic Requirements For Aseptic Packaging System
An aseptic packaging system should meet 4 criterias:
- It should be able to connect to a processing system so that the system enables aseptic transfer of products.
- It should be able to effectively sterilize the food product as well as the packaging before use.
- It should be able to carry out the filling,sealing, and critical transfer operations in a sterile environment.
- It should be able to be cleaned after use.
Advantages of Aseptic Packaging
- Aseptic packages are portable and lightweight.
- It ensures that the food product inside is free from harmful bacteria and contaminants.
- No refrigeration is required.
- Long shelf life.
- Products retain natural color,taste and texture
- Packaging to product ratio is very less such that 90% of product and 10% of packaging material is present.
Disadvantages Of Aseptic Packaging-
- Since the entire system is very complicated therefore cost of production is high resulting in high cost of product.
- Presence of overcooked flavour in some products.
Processes Used For Sterlization In Aseptic Packaging
Broadly there are 3 main sterilization process which are used either individually or in combination.
These are: Irradiation,heat and chemical treatments.
a.Ionising Radiation-Irradiation techniques using gamma rays from Co-60 or Cs- 135
b.Pulsed light-Use of short pulses in the form of electrical energy to kill pathogens.
c.UV-C Radiation-UV Radiation has a wavelength of 200-315 nm.UV Radiation is commercially used in combination with hydrogen peroxide.
Related Reads: Food Irradiation In Depth
In chemical methods, hydrogen peroxide is used as a sterilizing agent.
Minimum temperature of 70 degree Celsius ,minimum concentration 30% for 6 seconds are necessary to cause destruction of most of microbial spores within seconds.The U.S.Food and drug administration has ruled that the concentration of Hydrogen peroxide used for sterilization of packaging material should not be greater than 50 parts per billion(50 ppb) at the time of filling and should fall to 1 ppb within 24 hours.To increase the efficiency of sterilization by hydrogen peroxide numbers of methods have evolved which uses heat,radiant or irradiant energy along with hydrogen peroxide.
- Saturated Steam-It is used under pressure to plastic containers.
- Super-heated steam-The cans are passed continuously through 220-225 degree Celsius saturated steam under normal pressure for 36-45 seconds depending upon material used.
- Hot air
- Hot air and steam-Mixture of hot air and steam is used to sterilise inner surfaces of cups and lids.
ASEPTIC PACKAGING EQUIPMENT’S
It consist of layers of unbleached or bleached paperboard which is coated internally and externally with polyethylene.Thus the carton becomes impermeable to liquids in which internal and external surfaces may be sealed with heat.There is also a thin layer of aluminium which acts a oxygen and light barrier.
This system uses superheated steam at 225 degree Celsius for upto 40 seconds to sterilise the cans as well as to maintain vacuum in the cans.When the cans are filled with cold and sterile product they are sealed using conventional can sealer.
The bottles are sterilized either by saturated steam under pressure or by dry heat.Two types of bottles can be used-glass and plastic bottles.Glass bottles have not gained widespread acceptance.Plastic bottle is a better alternative than glass bottles.HDPE and PP are two most thermoplastics used sometimes with pigments added so that the contents are protected from light.Nowadays aseptic PET bottles are widely used which is capable of packaging variety of products like milk,juice,water etc.
SACHET AND POUCH SYSTEMS
Compared to other systems,this system is claimed to offer lower environmental impacts in terms of energy consumption and waste generation.Generally it is form-fill-seal system.UV rays may be used to sterilize the film.The bags may be made from either a reeled or flat film.The popular laminate is black or brown(to exclude ultraviolet light.)
Made ofpaper with wax or plastic coating on inside.Used for frozen and coagulated products.The cups are sprayed with 35% hydrogen peroxide and after 3 seconds at 400 degree Celsius the solution is removed with compressed hot air.