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Active packaging under the spotlight

By Jane Byrne in Hamburg , 30-Oct-2008

A project aimed at designing antimicrobial packing material that is risk free and improves the shelf life of fresh fish, chicken and minimally processed vegetables will begin work on November 1.

Participants at the Interpira Extending Shelf Life conference in Hamburg heard that the Natural Antimicrobials for Innovative Safe and Safe Packaging (NAFISPACK) project will be lead by a Spanish research centre.

The Spanish Instituto Tecnolgico del Embalaje, Transporte y Logstica (ITENE) organization is organising the project with the support of the 7th Framework Research Programme of the European Union.

Safety assessment

Dr Consuelo Fernandez Rivas from the packaging division of ITENE said one of the scheme's main objectives is to develop a safety assessment methodology for antimicrobial active and intelligent packaging using chemical, toxicological, microbiological and sensory analyses methods.

Polymers are suitable as carrier substances for antimicrobial agents because they have active structures. These stimulate the absorption and selective release of antimicrobial substances, she explained.

Fernandez Rivas said the team will evaluate a huge range of antimicrobials and will assess the risk of their migration into the food from the packaging.

The agents that will be under evaluation include sorbic and phosphoric, agents of microorganisms origin like nisin and pediocin as well as agents of plant origin such as essential oils and flavonoids, she said.

Regulation gap

Fernandez Rivas said that the three-year project will help fill the regulation gap regarding this type of packaging and the results will also inform the wider food industry: 'The team will verifiy whether or not active and intelligent packaging systems work, and whether or not they maintain the quality of the food while prolonging its shelf life.'

Seven research centres, two universities and eight companies including Danisco are involved in the collaborative work, she added.

With the support of the industry partners, the NAFISPACK developed material will be tested in a pilot facility and further evaluation will assess its recyclability and ease of opening, she said

Fernandez Rivas told FoodProductionDaily.com that the first dissemination of results is scheduled to coincide with a project conference in 18 months time but a project website will go live in the coming weeks.

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