The Role of Food Packaging
The principal roles of Food Packaging are to protect food products from outside influences and damage, to contain the food, and to provide consumers with ingredient and nutritional information (Coles 2003). The goal of food packaging is to contain food in a cost-effective way that satisfies industry requirements and consumer desires, maintains food safety, and minimises environmental impact.
How Food Packaging Protects and Preserves
Flexible food packaging can significantly extend shelf life, retaining the beneficial effects of processing and maintain or increase the quality and safety of food. In doing so, packaging provides protection from 3 major classes of external influences: chemical, biological, and physical.
Chemical Protection minimises compositional changes triggered by environmental influences such as exposure to gases (typically oxygen), moisture (gain or loss), or light (visible, infrared, or ultraviolet). Many different packaging materials can provide a chemical barrier.
Biological Protection provides a barrier to microorganisms (pathogens and spoiling agents), insects and other animals, thereby preventing disease and spoilage. In addition, biological barriers maintain conditions to control senescence (ripening and aging). Such barriers function via a multiplicity of mechanisms, including preventing access to the product, preventing odour transmission and maintaining the internal environment of the food packaging.
Physical Protection shields food from mechanical damage and includes cushioning against the shock and vibration encountered during distribution. Typically developed from paperboard and corrugated materials, physical barriers resist impacts, abrasions, and crushing damage, so they are widely used as shipping containers and as packaging for delicate foods such as eggs and fresh fruits. Appropriate physical packaging also protects consumers from various hazards. For example, child-resistant closures hinder access to potentially dangerous products. In addition, the substitution of plastic packaging for products ranging from shampoo to soda bottles has reduced the danger from broken glass containers.
Food Packaging is About Waste Reduction
Any assessment of food packaging and it’s impact on the environment must consider the positive benefits of reduced food waste throughout the supply chain. Inadequate preservation/protection, storage and transportation have been cited as causes of food waste. Packaging reduces total waste by extending the shelf-life of foods, thereby prolonging their usability. Package design and construction play a significant role in determining the shelf life of a food product. The right selection of packaging materials and technologies maintains product quality and freshness during distribution and storage.