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IMPORTANCE OF FOOD PACKAGING IN FOOD INDUSTRY
Monday, 18 July, 2016, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Kimmy and Pradyuman Kumar
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Introduction
The food processing and packaging industry is an important global business earning multi-trillion dollars. This is because of the rise in the living standards of the residents of developing countries. Moreover, people are getting more aware and conscious about their health. That is why, they are opting for packaged food. As a result, the need to follow food safety guidelines becomes stronger and the rules become more rigid.

Hence, this review paper includes the recent advances in food packaging sector, which include active packaging, intelligent packaging, smart packaging, non-destructive inspection methods, printing techniques, applications of robotics and machineries, automation, architecture, software systems and interfaces.

Worldwide, the sales of processed foods are estimated to be $2 trillion whereas that of packaged food range around$1 trillion. This is due to the enhancement in the incomes in developing countries which has resulted in rise in standard of living for their population. Further, people are opting for processed foods rather than foods like rice and barley.

Packaging is the cornerstone of the food processing industry. The processing and packaging industries transform the food from one stage to another by using different types of techniques and methods. Hence, it must be driven by health and hygienic factors, food safety, quality, fresh tasting and balanced nutrients. Beside these, it must include toxin removal, marketing and distribution, maintenance of taste, year-round availability and long shelf life.

Advancements in Packaging Material
The packaging materials are selected on the basis of specific type of food. For example, oxygen-sensitive foods require packaging with some barriers which prevents the spoilage caused by oxidation. The use of green plastics, which are biodegradable and environment-friendly is increasing,as we know that there is lot of waste generation from the food processing industry. Packaging material should be developed in such a way to get more of recovery and less wastage. For example, polyactide acid plastics, sugarcane pulp, fibre composite, starch-based films and so on. Besides wood, glass, aluminium active packaging is the advancement where the packaging material itself interacts with the food for longer shelf life and safety. Similarly, smart packaging involves the usage of sensors while fuzzy logics and neural networks are involved to get intelligent sensors. Nanotechnology-based packaging is concerned with molecular level for shelf life enhancement. Nanotechnology-based sensors and coating material are used to trace the product storage history. For example, nanoscale silica spheres filled with molecules of fluorescent dye are compatible with the meat packaging and are used to detect the presence of E.coli.

Active and Intelligent Food Packaging
Active and intelligent food packaging plays a key role in the preservation of food as it allows the package to interact with the food and the environment. These advancements lower the oxidation, control the rate of respiration, arrest the microbial growth and eliminate the moisture migration. Active packaging technology basically includes carbon dioxide absorbers or emitters, odour absorbers, ethylene removers and aroma emitters. It can manipulate the selective permeation of various gases to the packaging materials. By using the coating, micro perforations, lamination, co-extrusion, polymer binding;  selective permeation can be manipulated to alter the atmospheric concentration of gases inside the food package in accordance to oxidation and respiration kinetics of food. Intelligent packaging is designed to monitor and communicate the information about the food quality. It includes the temperature time indicators, biosensors, ripeness indicators, and radiofrequency identification systems. These can either be placed inside the food package or can be attached to the food package.

Oxygen Scavengers
The presence of oxygen inside the package can accelerate oxidative reactions which may result in food deterioration. Oxygen facilitates the growth of aerobic bacteria, moulds which may lead to generation of off-flavour, off-odour and reduce the nutritional quality. Therefore, oxygen scavenger is used to eliminate the oxygen from the food package and to prevent the undesirable changes. Oxygen scavenger can be in sachets that can be kept in headspace, labels, films or closures. These are usually based on the principle of oxidation of iron powder, catechol (an organic compound) oxidation, ascorbic acid oxidation etc. The combination of enzymes like glucose oxidase and catalase can also be used to eliminate the oxygen from the food package. The triggering mechanism like photosensitive dye irradiation can also be allowed for the removal of oxygen. These are successfully used in the meat industry.

Carbon Dioxide Absorbers and Emitters
Carbon dioxide has the benefits as it retards the microbial growth in meat, poultry, cheese and baked food products. It also lowers down the respiration rate of fresh produce. It overcomes the problems of oxygen scavenger like collapsing of package. Carbon dioxide available in various forms like moisture activated bicarbonate chemicals in sachets and so on. Moreover, high levels of carbon dioxide may cause the oxidative changes in the food. Therefore, it must be removed.

Moisture Control Agents
The presence of excess moisture inside the food package is detrimental to its quality, as it may lead to caking in case of powdered food products, softening of crispy foods. Therefore, moisture control agents are used to control the water activity, reduce microbial growth, remove unfrozen water in frozen foods, prevent condensation from fresh produce, and retard the rate of lipid oxidation. Therefore, desiccants like silica gel, natural clays, and calcium oxide can be used for meat, poultry, fruits and vegetables packaging. The moisture control agents can be in sachet form.

Ethylene Absorbers and Adsorbers
Ethylene is one of the natural plant hormone formed during ripening of the produce. It is responsible for the maturity, senescence of the produce. The removal of ethylene from the food package will enhance the shelf life of the product. The agents used for its removal are potassium permanganate which oxidises the ethylene to acetate and ethanol. Moreover, activated carbon, zeolite can also be used for its physical adsorption. These agents can be incorporated in the sachet form.

Temperature Control: Self-Heating and Cooling
These employ the usage of magnesium oxide or calcium oxide and water to carry out the exothermic reaction. It can be used for plastic coffee cans, military rations etc. whereas the self-cooling packaging involves the evaporation of external compounds that eliminates the heat from the packaged contents.

Automation in Packaging Machinery
Different machines are used on the production line for various foods. These are cartooning, wrapping, labelling, shrinking, sealing, case and tray forming, capping, cooling and drying, feeding, palletising, picking and placing (robotic system), cleaning and sterilising along with the inspection and detection and so on. Robotic system can be used for packaging of meats and chocolates into the trays at a faster rate and also they fulfil the hygienic requirements as well. This system can handle four production lines and multiple product types at a time.

Safety, Traceability and Supply Chain
The main concern of food packaging is food safety, as many people die because of food poisoning. Food safety regulations are given by FDA to overcome such problems. Traceability is very important not only for food safety but also for the authenticity of the product. Traceability is considered to be the entire information for each step in the process chain. For this, barcoding and radio frequency identification (RFID) systems are used. Radio frequency identification can easily monitor and track the temperature, humidity and so on and also, manual scanning is not required in it. Moreover, research is being carried out over development of biosensors and interfacing devices like micro fluidic systems.

Automated Inspection
It is very important,as it is not only going to reduce the cost of labour but also leads to higher productivity. Mainly x-ray-based and multispectral inspection is used. The difference in absorption of x-ray is caused due to difference in density and thickness of packaged food. Further, imaging techniques can also be used.

Packaging Printing and Security
The printing inks used should be safe to use and must be made from organic compound. For plastic cartons or rappers, flexography printing process can be used. The electron beam printing procedure can also be used which prevents the usage of heat and light for coating and drying of adhesives.

Software Applications
Software system plays a vital role in the food industry. Many of the food industries are using six sigma and lean principles to keep the track of their performances. Earlier, Packaging Execution System was reported.It is an IT solution to support the production processes in food industry. It can support the internal supply chain management, production process, real-time automation and control, data collection as well as reporting.

E-Maintenance
It is now becoming a well known trend in the food industries. It integrates the software backbone, information and communication technology for remote monitoring and control. Now, the human centred maintenance can easily be replaced with the sensor work, radio frequency identification system, apps and open system standards.

Conclusion
The food industry has observed major advancements in the packaging sector with most active and intelligent innovations. These advancements have led a way towards the improved food quality and safety. This paper has overviewed the recent advances in the food packaging sector regarding the security and sustainability. This new approach has mainly focussed on retarding the oxidation, regulating moisture migration, microbial growth, respiration rates and improving the overall system of food packaging sector. Various aspects of technologies, systems, standards like advanced packaging material and machinery, automation and control solutions, supply chain management, inspection system, usefulness of robotic platforms, and software application have been reviewed.

(Kimmy is a student of M. Techand Dr Pradyuman Kumar is working as professor, department of food engineering &technology, Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology, Longowal, Punjab. They can be contacted at pradyuman2002@hotmail.com)
 
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