What is Modified Atmosphere Packaging? - Industrial Physics What is Modified Atmosphere Packaging? - Industrial Physics

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How to Take Advantage of Modified Atmosphere Packaging

The advent of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) revolutionized the way that companies prepare and preserve their products. MAP makes it possible to manipulate the atmosphere – known as the headspace gas – inside packages, opening up a whole new range of opportunities for manufacturers. 

What is modified atmosphere packaging?

MAP is way to isolate your product from the atmospheric air, thereby protecting it against decomposition and rapid oxidation. The shelf-life extension provided by a modified atmosphere can be anything from days to years. At any point down the line you can then check the headspace gas created with a MAP gas analyzer. 

This headspace gas checking process has many applications. But it’s particularly popular in the food and pharmaceutical industries where oxygen and carbon dioxide headspace gas analyzers are needed for packaging shelf-life studies or to monitor the deterioration of drugs over time. 

How to create a MAP environment

To create a desired MAP environment, you blend gases including oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen together and flush your packages. After creating the desired headspace gas, you then hermetically seal the package so that the product contained within is protected from the environment. 

Testing MAP with Industrial Physics

We can help you make sure your MAP products and packages are working properly with a full range of products, such as the handy carbon dioxide and oxygen headspace gas analyzer Gaspace Advance Micro. 

A history of MAP and its introduction into packaging

You could say that the foundations for the MAP gas analyzer were laid two hundred years ago in France. It was 1821 when Jacques Etienne Berard – a professor at the School of Pharmacy in Montpellier – discovered you can extend the shelf life of fruit. Not a tricky concept…you just had to reduce the oxygen content of the atmosphere! 

The profound results of his experiments weren’t really developed until the 1930s. This was when the controlled atmosphere storage (CAS) method was invented. It wasn’t overly technical – you simply create a storage room with a high CO2 environment, helping to keep things fresher, for longer. 

Shortly after, this method was inherited by the meat industry. Starting in Australia and New Zealand. When farmers and distributors sought a better way to transport beef and lamb carcasses to serve the UK market. Again, storage areas of the ships were flushed with CO2, which helped to maintain freshness. A simple start, but one that led to complete control of headspace gas concentration – plus the invention of the MAP gas analyzer, which remains a powerful testing tool for determining the headspace gas quality.  

MAP’s widescale introduction

Fast-forward 10 years to the 1940s and 1950s and it was becoming common for fresh apples and pears to be stored in an enclosed, CO2 rich warehouse. It wasn’t until several decades later – in the 1970’s – that modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) was officially born. 

Mexico claimed it first – where companies producing bacon and fish started to alter the headspace gas content of their retail packs before sending them to market. Flushing them with carbon dioxide and nitrogen. 

Since then, development moved quickly to match the growing consumer demand for fresh food. The simple techniques and materials have been refined and developed over the years. To maintain headspace gas control, producers are reliant on headspace gas analysis to meet their consumer commitments. 

Where is MAP most commonly used?

You’ll find the headspace gas altering benefits of MAP technology used across the packaged foods industry. You’ve probably made a lunch entirely from MAP contained foods! Think cheese and tomato filled sub washed down with a hot cup of coffee. It can be used for everything from meat to fresh fruit and veg, as well as for snack foods. You’ll also find it in places like pharmaceutical blister packs or being used to preserve the quality of medical device products. 

Advantages of modified atmosphere packaging 

MAP offers some excellent advantages when it’s utilized, for example: 

  • Modified atmosphere packaging can extend the shelf life of a wide variety of foods and pharmaceuticals. For example, it can extend the shelf life of meat from 3 to 21 days, reducing spoilage and offering greater export opportunities. 
  • The MAP process doesn’t need chemicals, which means it can be used to protect organic produce too.  
  • As well as preserving the flavor of foods, it can also preserve nutrients.  

Disadvantages of modified atmosphere packaging 

There are some disadvantages to MAP, for example: 

  • One a modified atmosphere package has been opened, the contents will then be susceptible to changes in the atmosphere and shelf life will be impacted accordingly. 
  • MAP is capable of limiting the growth of spoilage microbes, but there are some harmful bacteria that it does not slow the growth of. This means that it is often used in conjunction with other safety measures, such as refrigeration.  

Need some directions? Understand the MAP with Industrial Physics

The Industrial Physics family of brands have been mapping out the MAP market for decades now. Whether you need a stand-alone MAP gas analyzer or a full range of inspection devices and tools to support any manner of packaging shelf-life studies or single package tests, we’ve got you.  

Have a look at the range of test and inspect solutions we offer through our specialist brand Systech Illinois and know that our experienced engineers and staff are ready to support you at every step – from setting up a whole testing lab to adding an innovative machines to your current suite.