New packing preserves perishable foods (Food Processing)
Project Acronym: NAFISPACK
Title of project: Natural antimicrobials for innovative and safe packaging
Research area: Food Processing
Contract No : 212544
EU Contribution: 2,971,360 Euro
Start date: November 2008
Duration: 38 Months
Consumer demand for packaged foods continues to increase while, for the producer, food packaging plays an increasingly crucial role in ensuring the quality and safety of food during distribution and storage. Packaging protects food from potentially harmful organisms, adulterants and contamination and increases its shelf-life. The main objective of the NAFISPACK project was to develop novel packaging technologies that would avoid/reduce and detect the growth of pathogens and spoilage microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi, which are responsible for losses of perishable foods. The foods selected for investigation include fresh fish, fresh chicken and minimally-processed vegetables (MPVs) which may not contain preservatives.
The project targeted innovative packing systems containing natural antimicrobial molecules that allow the consumer to determine the quality of the food (intelligent packaging). Natural antimicrobials (NAs) occur abundantly in the environment where they have evolved as host defence mechanisms and are generally considered as safe. The term ‘intelligent packaging’ is used to describe a material incorporating a function that switches on or off in response to changing external or internal conditions. Such packaging would usually include a mechanism that can communicate the status of the product to the customer or end user.
Increasing the shelf-life of packaged food can provide benefits to the whole production distribution and sales chain: from prime producer to final consumer. It can reduce losses from spoilage as well as extending sell-by dates. Depending on the nature and biodegradability of the materials chosen it can also reduce the amount of packaging used and improve possible routes for disposal. Intelligent packaging can also appeal to consumers, leading to increased sales.
The project developed novel food packaging technologies as well as novel tools for monitoring the quality of food products over time. It identified a number of natural antimicrobial substances that can be integrated into suitable packaging materials, and selected those with the greatest chance of successful incorporation into final packaging in real life applications. These packaging materials are based on polymeric materials impregnated with a particular antimicrobial agent, or on polymers that possess inherent antimicrobial activities themselves.
From an industrial point of view, the new materials developed by the NAFISPACK project offer real opportunities. In the production line, no performance differences between the new materials and those used currently were observed, so there is no need to adapt existing packaging or food-packaging production lines. From a commercial point of view, the new packaging solutions extend, in a mild but effective way, the commercial life of the most perishable products, such as those selected in the NAFISPACK project (minimally processed vegetables, fresh fish and fresh chicken).
These results have many, useful consequences. They offer better quality to consumers for a given storage time, they increase the profits of production companies and they minimise product losses. Distribution and inventory costs are reduced and fresh products can be supplied over longer distances. Finally, in some circumstances, the shelf-life extension provided by the natural antimicrobials – tested and selected in NAFISPACK – can help solve food security problems for specific food products and in specific areas of the world.
Website of project: www.nafispack.com/project.php
Coordinator Susana Aucejo Romero: firstname.lastname@example.org
Organisation: Packaging, Transport and Logistics Research Centre, Spain, www.itene.com
- The University of Milan, Italy, www.distam.unimi.it/
- Innventia AB, Sweden, www.innventia.com/
- CSIC – Spanish National Research Council, Spain, www.iata.csic.es/
- SIK – The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, Sweden, www.sik.se/
- NOFIMA AS, Norway, www.matforsk.no
- VTT – Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finland, www.vtt.fi
- The University of Zaragoza, Spain, www.unizar.es/
- Bremerhaven Technology-Transfer-Centre, Germany, www.ttz-bremerhaven.de/
- Danisco AS, Denmark, www.danisco.com
- Metalvuoto S.P.A, Italy, www.metalvuoto.it/
- Artibal S.A., Spain, www.artibal.com/
- Envaflex, S.A., Spain, www.envaflex.es
- Nordisches Lachskontor Gmbh, Germany, www.lachskontor.de/
- Verdifresh, S.L, Spain, www.verdifresh.net/
- Tommen Gram Folier AS, Norway, www.tommen.no/
- Nutreco Servicios S.A., the Netherlands, www.nutreco.com/