Aaron L. Brody

Count them: nearly 200 presentations on food packaging at the 2003 IFT Annual Meeting. Does this large number signify recognition by food scientists of the critical importance of food packaging to the delivery of food to consumers? Or are food packaging technologists afforded no other suitable venue to communicate their findings? Or is it just coincidence that more than 20% of oral and poster presentations deal with packaging?

The answers lie in the emergent recognition of the crucial nature of food packaging not as an afterthought in the spectrum of food research and product development, but rather as an integral element. In the continuum to provide our consumers with safer, higher-quality, more-nutritious, more-convenient, and higher-value food products, packaging is one of the indispensable foundations.

Our new generation has produced daring work to be reported at the Annual Meeting. IFT’s vibrant Food Packaging Div. is sponsoring three spectacular events:
• “Developing New Food Products for a Changing Marketplace,” a short course on Friday and Saturday, July 11–12. This superb, definitive course features four presentations on the multiple roles of packaging in protecting the food contents and communicating to the target market at an economical price.

• “Intelligent Packaging,” a symposium (Session 54) on Monday afternoon, July 14. The gradual evolution of active packaging into the food preservation scene is now accompanied by intelligent packaging, which has the potential to far surpass its antecedent, active packaging. While active packaging is intended to respond to environmental changes such as moisture, oxygen, or odor, intelligent packaging today is a sensing/measuring tool. Related to Universal Product Codes, theft deterrents, and two-dimensional locator devices, intelligent packaging outputs in the future can be converted into signals to actuate packaging change to precisely retain product quality and ensure safety.

Today’s time/temperature integrators are but the portents of means to control the actual temperature experience of packaged products. Proposed elementary microbiological presence/growth signals could suppress or even destroy adverse microorganisms. Closure integrity, gas concentrations, and flavor incorporations are all variables that tomorrow could be controlled by intelligent packaging. Concepts of extraordinarily sensitive measuring transducers that can transmit signals to activate remote actions, such as oxygen removal or carbon dioxide addition, are feasible.

A select group of professionals who have been performing research and developing intelligent packaging concepts applicable to food product safety and quality protection will challenge research convention with their provocative thinking. Robert Clarke of Michigan State University’s School of Packaging, a leading expert, will address the hottest topic in all of intelligent packaging—radiofrequency identification (RFID). Instant microbiological detection will be discussed by three activists in the field: Liz Roswell from England’s Johnson Matthey, Stuart Wentworth of Auburn University, and Jim Cox of Cox Technologies, a longtime researcher in the area who will also offer a perspective on time–temperature integration devices.

Gordham Patel of JP Laboratories will describe his organization’s freeze–thaw indicators. JP Labs has developed a small, easy-to-make/use and economical freeze indicator. The device is composed of a partially polymerized gel and a solvent. When the temperature of the device is reduced below the freezing point of water, the solvent phase separates out of the mixture and induces an irreversible color change, e.g., blue-to-red. Varying the ratio of water to solvent and the concentration of the polymer varies the temperature and time required for the color change. The device is small and changes color rapidly at a predetermined temperature.

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• “The Value of Packaging: Utilizing Packaging to Enhance Product Marketability,” a symposium (Session 84) on Tuesday afternoon, July 15. The session will cover the impact of packaging on retailers and consumers.

Food & Drug Packaging editor Lisa Pierce will discuss “Importance to Packaging Design in Market Communication of New Products.” When launching a product, the type of package selected can help gain a position—or even multiple placements—to catch the target customer’s eye. Determining what package the retailer will or will not like is a critical step in making a packaging decision, but it is often minimized or overlooked. Anecdotes of new products in unique packages that have delighted customers and retailers alike—packages that creatively use color, shape, size, material, and functionality—will be presented.

Brian Wagner of PTIS will speak on “The Package as Perception: Communication of Product Value, Product Uses.” He will describe how consumers perceive packaging as an integral part of the “product” and the product delivery system. The product equals package plus product plus equity plus services. The perception of packaging will emerge from background and trends information, and the role packaging plays in contributing to the consumer’s perception of the product. The role of the packaging developer and the value to the product development process will be discussed. He will also review traditional models for the packaging value chain, as well as new models that identify the consumer and the retailer as a much more important component of the chain. The traditional and optimized packaging development processes will help understanding of better packaging from a top-and bottom-line growth standpoint. Integrating all the information and knowledge will show how packaging contributes to product value and to new top-line growth.

Packaging Digest editor Mary Anne Falkman will discuss “Characteristics of a Winning Package from an Innovation and Marketing Perspective.” Rochester Institute of Technology’s Maria Rodino will present “Social and Commercial Benefits of Shelf Life Extension.” Graphic Packaging’s Andrew Johnson will discuss holographic printing. And I will provide a dramatic show of package designs that have revolutionized the market—with a bold prediction of designs that will change our future.

• “Packaging Barriers to Bioterrorism,” a symposium (Session 67) on this important contemporary issue on Monday afternoon. It will include several papers on packaging: “Industry Reacts to Packaging Security,” by a speaker from Novartis/Gerber Products; “Global Aspects of Packaging Security Threats,” from Australia’s CSIRO’s Michael Rooney; “Bioterrorism and Packaging Risk Evaluation,” from Exponent, Inc.; “Military Responses on Threats to Packaging Security,” U.S. Army Veterinary Command; and a highlight presentation from the Food and Drug Administration’s Bob Brackett on “FDA Perspectives on Threats to Packaging Security.”

In recent decades, packaging has increasingly been used to deter or reveal tampering. Several well-publicized incidents of tampering of foods and consumer products prompted increased application of tamper-proof and -evident packaging. The recent increased realization that foods could be used as vehicles for terrorist attacks has further increased interest in ways that foods can be protected from intentional contamination. Packaging is an important final protection against intentional contamination.

Ideally, all foods would be presented to consumers in tamper-evident packaging. Not all types of food, however, lend themselves to such packaging. In cases in which consumer packaging is not practical or advisable, new and innovative strategies to protect foods will need to be identified. In addition to the foods, the package materials themselves should be considered raw materials subject to tampering and, hence, should be appropriately secured. In January 2001, FDA published a “Food Security Preventative Measures Guide” that included suggestions for improving the security of package materials.

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• Technical Papers contributed to the Food Packaging Div.–sponsored technical session (Session 45D) on Monday morning will include “Use of Ozone and Carbon Dioxide Modified Atmosphere Storage,” “Use of Pediocin as an Alternative to Immobilize Antimicrobials in Biodegradable Films,” “Migration of Nonylphenol, an Endocrine Disrupter, from Plastic Containers to Drinking Water,” “Detection of Hazardous Monomers from Irradiated Plastics,” and several papers on edible films and chitosan films.

University of Georgia graduate student Heather Oliver will speak on the application of odor scavengers for reducing adverse lipid oxidation odors in military rations (Session 45D-25). She assessed the effects of cyclodextrins, molecular sieves, polyethylene imine, and activated carbon and found that the activated carbon removes the headspace odor without significantly disturbing the overall consumer acceptance.

Another presentation that represents an important contribution is the University of Florida’s “Reduced Oxygen Packaging of Fresh Seafood” (Paper 27-7). Studies of packaged fresh fish have shown that spoilage can be delayed by reducing oxygen. However, the anaerobic pathogenic Clostridium botulinum type E may grow in such reduced-oxygen packaging, causing packaged fish to become toxic prior to obvious spoilage. In an attempt to mitigate development of reduced-oxygen atmospheres within fresh seafood packaging, FDA has specified a minimum oxygen transmission rate (OTR) for seafood packaging films of 10,000 cc O2/m2/day. However, this specification does not take the actual package design into consideration. A specification that combines film OTR with descriptive parameters of the package, such as film area, may offer a better structure for the specification.

The objective of the research was to develop a scientific rationale for a new seafood package OTR specification and to study the sensitivity of Clostridium sporogenes spore outgrowth to oxygen in plastic film packages. Package structure parameters, such as film area and permeability, appear to influence outgrowth of C. sporogenes spores. Results suggested that package design and geometry should be incorporated into FDA’s permeability specification for reduced-oxygen-packaged fresh seafood.

• Packaging for Space Missions. Issues related to very long-term quality retention of microbiologically stabilized foods for space vehicle feeding will be reviewed in a Sunday morning session, “An Advanced Food System for Long-Duration Space Missions” (Session 2) and other sessions. Virginia Tech’s Joe Marcy will discuss “Potential Food Packaging Technologies for a Space Mission” (Session 2). The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Food Packaging working group identified and analyzed technologies that would provide protection for the food from spoilage and biochemical reactions. The primary objective was to define the packaging materials that would meet the needs of the Advanced Food System, e.g., a shelf life of 3–5 years. Since the food is preserved within the food package, the group considered the environment in which the packaging materials would be used.

In addition to evaluating technologies, the group discussed options to aid NASA in its current and future endeavors. Among the technologies discussed were liquid crystal polymers with exceptional oxygen and moisture barrier properties and high physical property performance compared to standard packaging polymers. Nanotechnology is based on the inclusion of inert inorganic fillers that exhibit a platelet nanostructure. Polymerized nanocomposite, oxygen-scavenging barrier nylon resin can be formed into an ultra-high oxygen barrier film containing an oxygen scavenger as part of the package material. A key variable is to reduce the oxygen within the package to near zero through integration of product and packaging.

On Tuesday morning, NASA’s Michele Perchonok will discuss “Development of a Shelf-Stable Food System for Long-Duration Space Missions” (Paper 62-6). NASA is working toward future long-duration manned space flights beyond low earth orbit. The duration of these missions may be as long as 2.5 years and will likely include a stay on a lunar or planetary surface such as Mars. For these missions, a shelf life of 3–5 years for the prepackaged food system is required. Of the preservation methods currently being used at NASA for the Shuttle and International Space Station food systems, thermostabilized items will have the longest shelf life.

Currently, four approved International Space Station thermostabilized packaged foods are undergoing accelerated shelf life testing in the Space Food Systems Laboratory at NASA/Johnson Space Center. Sensory and analytical data are being collected on the items stored for approximately three years. In addition to determining the shelf life of these foods, a better understanding of the biochemical and physical changes that can occur through-out their shelf life will be learned.

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• Papers on Active Packaging will be sprinkled throughout the four days of the Annual Meeting. Here are some of them, with comments on certain ones:

“Development of Active Packaging Materials using Natural Zeolite”(Paper 45D-1); “Use of Antimicrobial Agents and Antimicrobial-Containing Packaging Materials to Increase the Safety of Fresh Beef ” (Paper 60C-21); “Development of Ethylene Absorbent Used in Active Package” (Paper 45D-31); “Kinetic Parameter Estimation of Commercially Available Time–Temperature Integrators for Safe Use with Seafood Packaged in Reduced-Oxygen Atmospheres” (Paper 27-8); “Detecting and Tracing Product/Packaging Abuses in the Supply Chain” (Paper 67-7); “Efficacy of Natural Antimicrobial Agent Lactoferrin in Protein-Based Edible Films against E. coli” (Paper 45D-8).

“Surface Modification of Polyethylene Film for Active Packaging Applications” by Joe Hotchkiss (Paper 45D-29). Current antimicrobial packaging technologies involve migration of the active compound from the packaging into the food; nonmigratory systems are preferable because of negative consumer attitudes toward food additives. Modification of a polymer film surface was investigated as a method for the development of non-migratory active packaging systems from polyethylene.

Polyethylene film was surface-oxidized and further functionalized by attachment of diamino-poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) oligomers via carbodiimide coupling. An additional carbodiimide coupling reaction was used to link a peptide to the free amine functions of the PEG oligomers.

Contact-angle analysis showed the expected decrease in hydrophobicity on oxidation and a further decrease on PEG attachment. The acid–base nature of the surface groups was further characterized by contact angles derived for phosphate buffer at a range of pH values. Free amines appeared on the PEG functionalized surface. This system has been developed to allow attachment of biologically active molecules to the surface of polyethylene. Active packaging with tethered bioactive compounds opens the door to in-package enzyme processing of food products as well as novel antimicrobial packaging systems.

Researchers from several Taiwan universities will reporting on “Modification of Surface Properties Using RF Plasma” (Paper 45D-19) and “Sterilization of Packaging Polymers using Low-Temperature Plasma Treatment Technology” (Paper 92C-1). Microbial indicators were inoculated on selected pre-treated commercial packaging polymers. The plasma surface treatment was then applied to sterilize the inoculated microorganisms. The parameters of plasma operation such as power, pressure, gas mixture, flow rate, distance between sample and electrode, and operation time were adjusted to achieve the optimum operating conditions. Results indicated that the nonthermal plasma process is effective for the sterilization of packaging polymers. The survivability of microorganisms decreased as the plasma power and operation time increased. Decimal reduction time of the plasma process was less than 30 sec for Bacillus subtilis. The degree of sterilization achieved suggests the possibility of applying the nonthermal plasma process to dry-type sterilization. Compared to other methods, the plasma sterilization process not only is environmentally friendly but also consumes less energy.

• Retortable Carton. A capstone presentation on Tetra Pak’s award-winning Tetra Recart™ retortable composite paperboard carton will take place during the “New Products and Technologies” session on Monday morning (Session 44). Serving as an alternative to traditional metal, glass, and plastic-based packages, the new carton offers a competitive advantage to manufacturers of solid foods and liquid foods with particulates such as fruits and vegetables, as well as ready-to-eat foods and petfood. The immediate advantages are package differentiation and unique shelf impact. Products packaged in the carton can be distributed at ambient conditions and are lighter and easier to stack than cans or glass jars. The production capacity is similar to that of modern canning lines.

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Adding to the attractiveness of IFT’s Annual Meeting to the nearly 100,000 packaging industry technologists and managers who represent a target audience are dozens of exhibits introducing innovation to the IFT members and visitors. Here are descriptions of some of the packaging exhibits, based on information received by press time:
• Pallets and Containers. CHEP is the global leader in pallet and plastic container pooling services. The company issues, collects, repairs/washes, and reissues more than 200 million pallets and containers from a global network of depots, helping manufacturers and growers transport their products to distributors and retailers. The company handles pallet and container supply-chain logistics for customers in the produce, meat, beverage, and other industries. CHEP, 8517 S. Park Cl., Orlando, FL 32819 (phone 800-243-7872, fax 407-226-4629, www.chep.com), Booth 4358

• Intermediate Bulk Containers. Goodpack USA, Inc., leases IBCs globally. The company positions empty IBC units at a packer and then picks up the empty units after they are discharged at the end user. Goodpack USA, Inc., 550 N. Commons Dr., Suite 106, Aurora, IL 60504 (phone 630-898-0888, fax 630-898-1888), Booth 729

• Liquid Bulk Containers. The EZBulk corrugated container system is designed for one-way, economical shipments of food-grade liquids. The container is available in capacities of 110, 220, 275, and 330 gal and is recyclable, reducing waste by 75%. Aseptic and kosher applications are available. Specialty liners allow 100% evacuation of products. The company’s newest product is the EZ-Bulk 48x40 Series, a one-way, disposable liquid bulk container holding 275 gal. It is 40% lighter in tare weight than the EZ-Bulk, with initial cost savings of more than 25% vs the competition. Also available is the Exotainer, a returnable, collapsible, liquid bulk container for food-grade materials. The 300-gal container can be stacked six high. Paper Systems, Inc., 321 SW 4th St., Des Moines IA 50309, (phone 515-280-1111, 515-280-9219, www.paper-systems.com) Booth 1917

• Totes and IBCs. TNT Pallecon Logistics services industry with a comprehensive range of totes and IBCs for the storage, distribution, and handling of most liquid, powder, and granular raw materials and ingredients. The Pallecon M330 is a hygienic 300-gal tote for handling and distributing a broad range of free-flowing and viscous products. A comprehensive range of filling and discharge equipment and liner bags is available. The Heatacon can handle and distribute a broad range of viscous and semisolid products that require controlled heating to assist with melting and total discharge. And the Haztainer is a UN-approved 275-gal fold-down container which offers a safe and economical alternative to handling Packaging Group 2 & 3 Regulated Products and Ingredients. TNT Pallecon Logistics, 2605 White Oak Circle, Unit B, Aurora IL 60504 (phone 800-272-3129 or 888-730-3199), Booth 4532

• Pouch Packaging Equipment. Wild Flavors, Inc. is providing high-speed pouch filling packaging equipment. The company is the U.S. representative of the Wild-Indag Technology Group. Wild Flavors is part of the Wild Group, global suppliers of flavors, flavors systems and compounds, fruit preps, processing equipment, pouch filling and packaging equipment, and Capri Sonne/Capri Sun outside of North America. The Wild Group has 12 manufacturing facilities through-out the world and is currently building a global pouch technology and machinery manufacturing center in Heidelberg, Germany. Wild Flavors, Inc., 1261 Pacific Ave., Erlanger, Ky. 41018-1260 (phone 859-342-3600, www.wildflavors.com), Booth 2713.

• Packaging Measurement. Tricor will display and demonstrate its Model 806H hand-held gloss/bloom measurement system for packaging and confectionery, the new Model 880 Imaging Spectrophotometer for measuring the color of packaging and confectionery, and the new Model 807 DOI/Haze Meter for measuring packaging haze. Model 880 allows the user to image a large area and then select any area within the area for absolute color measurement. Tricor Systems, Inc., 1650 Todd Farm Dr., Elgin IL 60123 (phone 847-742-5542, www.tricor-systems.com), Booth 908

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• Packaging Systems. Clextral Inc.’s Lymac subsidiary provides vertical cartoner and bag-in-box packaging systems. Clextral Inc., 14450 Carlson Cl.,Tampa, FL 33626 (phone 813-854-4434, fax 813-855-2269, www.clextralgroup.com), Booth 617 

• Nut and Snack Packaging. Terri Lynn Inc., a direct-source supplier of nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate-covered products, also owns and operates a printing and laminating company, Packaging By Design. This facility has customers in many areas such as candy, nuts, snacks, institutional, etc. Terri Lynn Inc., 1450 Bowes Rd., Elgin, IL 60123 (phone 847-741-1900, fax 847-741-1912, www.terrilynn.com), Booth 1874

• Bulk Shipping and Storage Containers. Bonar Plastics offers a “World of Ideas” in the engineering and manufacture of rotationally molded bulk shipping and storage containers. The products exhibited will include a complete line of side-discharge and bottom-discharge hoppers, IBCs, tanks, bins, insulated containers, including the original “Polar” containers, bag-in-the-box, and Duracarts. Bonar Plastics, 1005 Atlantic Dr., West Chicago IL 60185 (phone 800-295-3725, fax 630-293-0930, www.bonarplastics.com), Booth 4928

• Low-Volume Canning Equipment. Dixie Canner Co. specializes in low-volume packaging and processing equipment. Whether your needs are for a low-volume seamer to market-test your new product or a seamer with the capabilities to perform complex R&D procedures, the company has a model to meet your needs. In addition to our customized seamers, the full line of R&D and specialty canning equipment is designed and developed for efficiency and economical service. Dixie Canner Co., 786 E. Broad St., Athens GA 30601 (phone 706-549-1914, fax 706-549-0137, www.dixiecanner.com), Booth 4729

• Disposable Bulk Containers. Longview Fibre Co. will exhibit its Liquiplex® octagonal and cubical one-way, disposable totes with capacities for liquid and bulk products of 220–330 gal and its Drumplex® one-way, drum-sized containers, which provide space savings and eliminate freight charges required for returning empty totes. Since the containers are easy to dispose of, there is no accumulation of empty drums and totes that create a sanitation problem while waiting to be picked up. These corrugated and solid fibre paperboard containers allow liquid shippers to dependably and economically supply their products worldwide. Plastic pallets and foil heaters are also available to allow these containers to be more versatile. Longview Fibre Co., 281 Village Pkwy., Marietta GA 30066 (phone 770-951-2733, fax 770-951-2459, www.longviewfibre.com), Booth 4622

• Fiber IBCS. Smurfit-Stone, through its relationship with Ludlow FIBC group, a Tyco company, offers a full line of custom-engineered FIBCs produced in either North America or overseas. Combining a durable woven polypropylene construction with custom-tailored features, each FIBC is specifically designed to facilitate filling, handling, and emptying products. FIBCs are manufactured with a variety of filling and unloading spouts, handling loops, and closures to meet customer specifications. Styles that provide sturdy internal support for upright shipping and stacking are also available. Smurfit Stone, 450 E. North Ave., Carol Stream IL 60018 (phone 630-260-3500, fax 630-260-6864, www.smurfit-stone.com), Booth 4666

• Corrugated IBC for Liquids. SpaceKraft is introducing a new version of its popular corrugated IBC that holds up to 300 gal of liquid. The new bin is reusable and also can be stored outdoors. With up to 75,000 lb of compression strength, it can be stacked five high. A plastic pallet and lid eliminate the need for wood parts that can cause splinters and attract insects. Completely recyclable, it also provides easy setup and knockdown for return. SpaceKraft, a Weyerhaeuser Business, 4901 W. 79th St., Indianapolis, IN 46268 (phone 800-599-8943, fax 317-871-6993, www.spacekraft.com), Booth 3922

Obviously, descriptions of the entire array of food packaging presentations, symposia, posters, and exhibits could fill this issue and then some, which would convert Food Technology into Food Packaging Science and Technology. Considering the importance of the packaging function to the food system, this biased suggestion has more than a little merit.

This hint of the vast depth of meaningful information probably not available elsewhere should spark a major influx of professionals anxious to learn and grow the food industry through packaging.

Editor’s note: See the July issue of Food Technology for additional coverage of Food Expo exhibitors whose information arrived too late for inclusion in this issue.

Contributing Editor
President and CEO, Packaging/Brody, Inc.
Duluth, Ga.

In This Article

  1. Food Processing & Packaging