A range of multilayer barrier films that are claimed to provide the stiffness, transparency and thermal resistance needed in lidding and flow packs for fresh and processed meat, cheese and other foodstuffs has been launched.
Produced by Greek-based firm Flexopack , this new line of coextruded films, called FlexoHybar CO barrier films, uses a Topas cyclic olefin copolymer (COC) layer to gain high modulus, transparency and improved moisture barrier. The layer eliminates the need to build stiffness by laminating oriented films to the barrier-coextruded film, which reduces production steps and improves economics.
The new Flexopack films have as many as nine layers and control permeation to moisture, oxygen, odours and aromas. In addition to its high modulus, transparency and moisture barrier, Topas COC, which is made by Ticona , the technical polymer business of Celanese, provides excellent abuse- and puncture-resistance, important to the performance of lidding and flow-pack films.
"These new coextruded films have moduli of up to 1200 MPa, in the same magnitude as that of oriented films," said Stamatis Ginosatis, managing director of Flexopack. "This means we do not have to laminate our film to oPP, oPA or oPET films.
"By combining barrier and stiffness in our structure, we make FlexoHybar CO films in a single, coextruded operation rather than in two or three processing steps. The result is a film having excellent economics for use in surface-printed and unprinted lidding for thermoformed rigid or semi-rigid combinations in modified atmosphere packaging."
Topas COC's (cyclic olefin copolymers) are amorphous engineering plastics that, in addition to strength, stiffness, heat resistance and excellent dimensional stability, have high clarity, transparency, and low moisture absorption. They are approved for food-contact applications such as flexible packaging in both Europe and the USA.
New packaging film innovations are continually being developed. An ultra high-barrier thermoformable PCTFE film laminate for example was recently launched by Tekni-Films. The company has described its new product as the highest-barrier clear film currently available.
These products could prove to be the tip of the iceberg. Imminent changes to EU law could result in a flood of new packaging materials, and a new regulation covering materials that come into contact with food is at the final stages of approval, having passed through the European Parliament legislative process.
This, said Alan Reilly, acting chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), could result in a flood of food packaging that changes colour in response to temperature, can absorb moisture release and can give consumers information on the condition of the food they purchase. The regulation outlines that food contact materials are all materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs, including packaging materials but also cutlery, dishes, processing machines and containers.
"Under the previous regulations, this packaging could not have been introduced into the EU because the packaging had to be inert," said Reilly. "Amendments were agreed to specify some principles that should apply to active and intelligent packaging; for example, that the food industry must be informed of substances that would be deliberately released from packaging and that these should be identified on the label as if they were food ingredients."
'Active packaging' is used to prolong shelf life and inhibit the growth of micro organisms, while 'intelligent packaging' allows for monitors or displays on packaging to indicate the freshness of food or to indicate if frozen food has thawed during storage and transport.
But speaking at the joint committee on enterprise and small business this month, Reilly stressed that while 'intelligent packaging' would be a welcome development for consumer information and choice, there is a need for robust legislation to ensure that new innovations in food packaging do not cause risks to consumer health.
"Some food packaging can potentially transfer some of their constituents into the food they contact," he said. "The emphasis of legislation and enforcement must be focused on protecting consumer health by ensuring food contact materials are safe and should not transfer their components into the foodstuff in unacceptable quantities."