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Understanding Tray Sealing and Modified Atmosphere Packaging (M.A.P.)
Introduction The purpose of this document is to educate food manufacturers about modified atmosphere packaging (M.A.P.) and how it is used to preserve the freshness and extend the shelf-life of food products to ensure they reach the consumer in optimum condition.
Problem Statement Consumers are increasingly demanding high-quality food products, and have corresponding expectations that such quality will be maintained at a high level during the period between purchase and consumption. These expectations are a consequence not only of the primary requirements that the food should remain safe, but also of the need to minimize unwanted changes in sensory (primarily sight and smell) quality. While many food manufacturers are using gas flush with their vacuum chamber packaging machine to ensure product preservation and to relieve the crushing affects (e.g., shredded cheese) associated with vacuum packaging, they are not taking advantage of M.A.P. tray sealers/lidders, which offer an attractive presentation using film, foil, or fiber to seal the cover or opening of trays. Additionally, cross-flow gas flushing is less effective, leaving higher residual oxygen levels than gas backfill, which puts gas into a vacuum, thereby filling the void with a desirable atmosphere.
Solution Whether you are packaging family packs of meat, poultry or seafood, bowls of salad, soup or sauce, sandwich trays, home replacement meals, or produce, M.A.P. can be used to carefully control the atmosphere within the package. This process is the changing of existing atmosphere to an atmosphere more suitable to achieve a specific end result. It is a one-time modification before the package is sealed. However, the atmosphere introduced will go through continued changes depending upon the product being packaged. At which point the mix can no longer be controlled, special films with micro pores or specific permeability properties are used to allow gas to escape from the package. These types of applications are most common with certain produce items that emit carbon dioxide, which will spoil if not allowed to leave the package at a controlled rate.