How Nitrogen Is Used in Modified Atmosphere Packaging thumbnail image

How Nitrogen Is Used in Modified Atmosphere Packaging

MESA Gas - February 20, 2024

As a staple in the food industry, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) has revolutionized how we think about food preservation. This specialized packaging technology extends the shelf life of perishable products by altering the environment within the packaging.

At the forefront of this transformative technique is nitrogen, an essential gas that plays a critical role in maintaining food freshness. Let’s delve into the specifics of how nitrogen is used in modified atmosphere packaging, exploring its applications, benefits, and the best practices for deploying it effectively.

The Role of Nitrogen in MAP

Air comprises multiple gases, but not all are favorable for preserving food. The atmospheric composition of gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen is carefully engineered to create an ideal environment for various food products. Among these gases, nitrogen stands out for its inert properties, meaning it does not react with food and poses no threat to its quality or safety.

Food industry companies use nitrogen to displace and dilute oxygen within the MAP environment. By drastically reducing oxygen levels through a process called headspace flushing, the rate of aerobic respiration is slowed down in fruits and vegetables, ensuring fresh produce stays fresh. When it comes to meat and dairy, the absence of oxygen hampers the growth of aerobic pathogens, significantly reducing the risk of spoilage.

Applications of Nitrogen in MAP

Before you find a specialty gas company to buy your nitrogen from, it’s good to know the best uses of this process. From sliced deli meats to locally-grown strawberries, MAP’s applications are as diverse as the foods it protects.

  • In bakery goods, nitrogen reduces oxidative reactions, preserving the flavors and textures of the product.
  • Processed cheese and other dairy products can maintain an appetizing color and consistency, avoiding unappealing browning.
  • Fresh meat and fish can remain bright red or pink, which is often a visual cue of freshness that consumers regard as a quality characteristic.

By tailoring the MAP environment to the specific needs of the product, manufacturers can achieve consistent quality and prolong the market reach of their goods.

Considerations and Best Practices

Attention to detail is paramount to harness the full potential of nitrogen in modified atmosphere packaging. Packaging engineers and food industry professionals must consider the gas permeability of packaging materials, the integrity of seals, and the volume-to-surface-area ratio of the packaged item to ensure the nitrogen stays in the package and does its job effectively.

Precision is key when determining the appropriate gas mix and flow rates for different foods. Quality control measures such as regular gas content checks and minimizing dwell time can mitigate variability and uphold the quality standards that are synonymous with the brand. That’s why you need to get your equipment from a trusted specialty gas company like MESA Gas. We have everything you’ll need for this intricate process.