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Flexible packaging guide outlines good practice

16-Nov-2004

A new study designed to help packaging firms appreciate the key factors influencing the integrity of heat processed rigid and flexible containers has been published.

The researchers behind the project at UK-based CCFRA believe that the report should help ensure compatibility between process and package and assure the safety of end products.

As filling technologies and container types evolve, says the report, new challenges emerge. The integrity of the packages used to contain heat processed foods - whether rigid or flexible - will be crucial in maintaining product safety.

For example, if the physical barrier is breached then product contamination becomes more likely and a food poisoning incident a distinct possibility. Even if it does not result in food poisoning, it can nevertheless lead to spoilage, loss of stock, increased hygiene problems in storage areas where product has leaked, and rejection of damaged containers by consumers.

The study, entitled A review of the integrity of heat processed containers through manufacturing and distribution, goes on to describe good practice for maintaining the integrity of containers going through heat pasteurisation and sterilisation processes.

It covers any defect that could occur from container reception at the packer through to retail, looking in turn at metal cans, pouches, glass containers and semi-rigid trays. In each case it works through the issues in a standard way, considering the specification and container at reception, filling and exhausting, sealing, processing and cooling, post process drying, and container handling and storage.

In pulling together existing information from disparate sources, CCFRA believes that the review should be of interest to anyone working with heat process foods and with responsibility for or concern about package integrity.

The market for rigid and flexible food packaging is growing on both sides of the Atlantic in response to changing consumer trends. New technologies are another important growth factor, especially in the areas of barrier bottles and dual-ovenable packaging.

For example, the emergence of several barrier materials for PET containers used in beverages has opened up new possibilities in packaging. Beverages such as fruit juices, dairy products, beer, and even some carbonated soft drinks, rely on enhanced barrier properties now offered on the market.

GE Advanced Materials for example has developed Noryl PKN, a resin capable of extreme temperature resistance. This, says the company, makes it ideal for food packaging that goes direct from the deep freeze to the microwave.

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