Modified Atmosphere Packaging Machine

Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) is to change the composition of the atmosphere inside of a container with packaged food (Including: beef, pork, chicken, fish, vegetables, etc). The goal of MAP packaging is to increase the shelf life of the product in the container.

Modified atmosphere packaging machine is the equipment to do MAP packaging to improve the shelf life and freshness of many food products.

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modified atmosphere packaging machine tray sealer
Modified Atmosphere Packaging Machines
modified atmosphere packaging machine tray sealer

Vertical MAP machine tray sealer

modified atmosphere packaging machine tray sealer

Inline MAP machine tray sealer

modified atmosphere packaging machine tray sealer

Continuous MAP machine tray/cup sealer

modified atmosphere packaging machine tray sealer

Thermoforming MAP machine

What is MAP modified atmosphere packaging

Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is to pack perishable food products in an atmosphere environment that has been modified to be able to extend the shelf life of packaged products. Although controlled atmosphere storage (CAS) involves careful control and addition of gas to maintain a fixed concentration of gas around the product, the gas composition of fresh MAP products is constantly changing due to chemical reactions and microbial activity. The external environment may also be generated by the penetration of packaging materials.

Why use MAP modified atmosphere packaging

To keep food fresh is always a challenge. We all know that food doesn’t stay fresh forever. There are a number of factors cause food spoilage. The Oxygen causes oxidation. Fats and oils in food can oxidise to make the food turn rancid. Food got spoiled mainly because of the growth of microbes such as bacteria, yeasts and mould that are present all around us. These microbes feed and grow on the food product, causing it to go bad. The appearance of food can also change over time when exposed to air. Fresh meat turns brown after a while because of interactions between oxygen and pigments in the tissue.

People have invented many methods to slow down food spoilage and to keep food attractive and edible for as long as possible. These include simple refrigeration – the lower the temperature the slower most microbes will grow – or treatments such as pickling, curing with salt or by adding artificial preservatives, vacuum packing is a modern food packaging method started from 1940s.

However, to keep food fresh for as long as possible without additives is a challenge, and one key technology for achieving this goal is to seal the food product in a package which contains a mixture of natural gases in carefully controlled proportions that significantly slow down the process of decay by inhibiting processes of oxidation and the growth of microbes. This is the essence of modified atmosphere packaging: the atmosphere in which the food is packaged is modified so that spoilage is markedly reduced and the shelf life of the product is increased.

Benefits of MAP modified atmosphere packaging

Modified atmosphere packaging allows natural and non processed food to be packaged in a way that extends the shelf life of the product. This increases the quality of the products image and texture, as well as the appeal of it’s nutrition. The contained atmosphere within the package provides the product with an extended availability. As MAP does not need chemicals to preserve the freshness of the product, it has greater appeal.

The processing and marketing of foods is enhanced due to modified atmosphere packaging. MAP provides the consumer with fresh and delicious foods. These foods often exceed the customer’s expectation.

When it comes to brand awareness, consistent quality and fresh products, MAP technology is a true win-win. Consumers and food companies alike seem to enjoy the benefits of MAP.

• Longer shelf life / higher quality

Food packaged under a protective atmosphere spoils much slower. Combined with continuous cooling, Modified Atmosphere Packaging can significantly extend the freshness and shelf life. This effect varies depending on the product type. However, a doubling of the shelf life is usually possible. Normally, MAP products keep a high quality over a longer period of time and arrive at the consumer in the best possible condition.

• Less waste

Longer durability is often associated with fewer problems during long distance shipment, and longer shelf life. As a result, waste disposal due to spoiled food can often be reduced.

• More sales opportunities

Because of the longer shelf life, Modified Atmosphere Packaging typically opens up new geographic markets to manufacturers. Particularly with perishable goods, longer shipment distances can be achieved. A global market can become a reality.

• Fewer preservatives

Packaging under a protective atmosphere extends the shelf life of food, meaning in many cases that the use of preservatives can be reduced or even completely eliminated. Consumers get products that do not contain artificial additives.

• Appealing package design

Next to functional aspects, the design of the packaging plays a significant role in the competition for consumers. The look-and-feel and the quality impression influence the purchasing behaviour. Modified Atmosphere Packaging is very well suited for the most appealing packaging design and presentation of the food product.

How does Modified Atmosphere Packaging work

Oxygen produces lipid oxidation reactions. It also causes high respiration rates in fruit and vegetables. High respiration rates are to blame for shortened shelf life. The presence of oxygen encourages the growth of aerobic spoilage. The potential formation of other unwanted microorganisms may also occur. By reducing oxygen and replacing it with other gases, we can reduce or delay unwanted reactions. To change the atmosphere of a package, the oxygen contained within must be reduced or removed. The MAP process lowers the volume of oxygen contained within the empty space of the packaging containing the product. Oxygen is often replaced with other gases, including nitrogen solely, or mixed air of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen.

Modified atmosphere packaging air composition

The type and proportion of gas used in the packaging is mainly decided by the type of food in the package. Some products only need nitrogen filling, while others might need mixed air of nitrogen, dioxide carbon and oxygen. Following is the modified air composition for your reference. We always recommend that you consult a professional food technologist for the mixing ratio before real production.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2) are mainly used as protective gases in food packaging. Carbon monoxide (CO) or argon (Ar) is also common in some countries. Oxygen (O2) is also used in some cases.

Oxygen (O2) essentially causes food to spoil due to oxidation and forms the ideal preconditions for aerobic microorganisms to grow. As a result, oxygen is frequently excluded from modified atmosphere packaging. In some cases – typically red meat – processing is deliberately carried out with high oxygen concentrations, in order to prevent the red colour from becoming ‚pale, and to inhibit the growth of anaerobic organisms.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is colourless, odourless and tasteless. It has an oxidation-inhibiting and growth-inhibiting effect on most aerobic bacteria and moulds. The gas is frequently used to increase the shelf life of food. The shelf life of packaged or stored food is normally longer, the higher the CO2 content. Nevertheless, many products can become sour if the dosage is too high. In addition, the gas can diffuse out of the packaging or be absorbed by the product – and the packaging thereby collapses. The use of supporting or filling gases can slow down this effect.

Nitrogen (N2) is an inert gas and owing to its production process, is typically relatively high purity. It is usually used for displacing air, especially atmospheric oxygen, in food packaging. This prevents the oxidation of food and inhibits the growth of aerobic microorganisms. It is frequently used as a supporting or filling gas, as it diffuses very slowly through plastic films and hence remains longer in the packaging.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is colourless, odourless and tasteless. Similar to oxygen, carbon monoxide is sometimes used to retain the red colour of, primarily, meat. The required concentrations are very low. In some countries, including the EU, the use of carbon monoxide for modified atmospheres is nonetheless prohibited in foods.

Argon (Ar) is inert, colorless, odorless and tasteless. Owing to the similarity of its properties to those of nitrogen, argon can replace nitrogen in many applications. It is believed that certain enzyme activities are inhibited and argon slows metabolic reactions in some types of vegetables. Due to the marginal effects and the higher price compared to nitrogen, its use is rather rare.

Hydrogen (H2) and helium (He) feature in modified atmospheres in some applications. However, these gases are not used to extend shelf life. They are used as trace gases for some leak detection systems available on the market. The relatively small molecular size of the gases allows rapid escape through packaging leaks. Since these gases otherwise have no positive properties on the food products and are expensive and not easy to handle, their use is rare. The most common method for leak testing is the detection of CO2 which is the core component in many MAP processes.

As an inert gas, nitrogen is primarily used to replace oxygen in packaging, thereby preventing oxidation. Owing to its low solubility in water, nitrogen also helps to prevent package collapse by maintaining internal volume

Food ProductsModified Air Composition
Raw red meat: Beef, goat, hare, lamb, pork, rabbit, veal, horse, venison, wild boar70% O₂, 30% CO₂

Raw offal: Feet or trotters, foie gras, giblets, heart, kidney, liver, neck, oxtail, sweetbread, tongue and tripe20% CO₂, 80% O₂
Raw poultry: Chicken, duck, goose, guinea hen, grouse, partridge, capon, pheasant, pigeon, poussin, cornish hen, quail and turkey30% CO₂, 70% N₂, or 20% CO₂, 80% O₂
Poultry, dark portions and cuts: Dark poultry mince, other skin-off poultry, skin-off chicken, skin-off turkey, sliced dark poultry, turkey mince30% CO₂, 70% O₂
Raw low fatwhite fish and seafood: Catfish, cod, brill, bream, coley, croaker, dab, dover and lemon sole, flounder, grouper, haddock, hake, halibut, hoki, huss, jackfish, john dory, mullet, monkfish, pike, plaice, pollack, red snapper, sea bass, shark, skate, turbot, whiting30% N₂, 40% CO₂, 30% O₂
Raw high fat oily fish and seafood: Bluefish, carp, eel, greenland halibut, herring, mackerel, pilchard, rock salmon, salmon, sardines, shad, sprat, swordfish, trout,. tuna, whitebait60% N₂, 40% CO₂
Shellfish, crustaceans and molluscs: Abalone, clams, cockles, conch, crab, crayfish, cuttlefish, lobster, mussels, octopus, oysters, prawns, scallops, sea urchins, shrimp, squid, whelks, winkles30% N₂, 40% CO₂, 30% O₂
Cooked, cured and processed meaet products: Bacons, beefburgers, black pudding, charcuterie, chopped pork and ham, cooking sausages, corned beef, frankfurters, haggis, hams, luncheon meats, meat jerky, meat slices, ox tongue, pastrami, pates, pepperoni, potted meats, rillettes, roast meats, salmi, smoked reindeer, smoked venison, terrines, wurst sausages70% N₂, 30% CO₂
Cooked, cured and processed fish and seafood products: Bloaters, bombay duck, buckling, cod’s roe, cold smoked fish, fish galantine, fish rillettes, fish terrines, hot smoked fish, kippers, potted fish, potted shellfish, salt cod, salted anchovies, salted caviar, salted fish roes, salted jellyfish, seafood pates, smoked haddock, smoked halibut, smoked mackarel, smoked salmon, smoked trout, taramasalata70% N₂, 30% CO₂
Cooked, cured and processed poultry and game bird products: Capon galantine, chicken ballotine, chicken roll, cured game birds, cured poultry, duck ballotine, duck pate, duck galantine, pheasant galantine, pigeon galantine, smoked chicken, smoked duck, smoked poussin, smoked turkey, turkey bacon, turkey ballotine, turkey galantine, turkey roll70% N₂, 30% CO₂
Ready meals: Casseroles, ready meals containing fish, ready meals containing game bird, goulash, ready meals containing meat, ready meals containing offal, ready meals containing pasta, ready meals containing poultry, sauces, ready meals containing seafood, soups, ready meals containing vegetables70% N₂, 30% CO₂
Convenience food products:

Battered fish, seafood, meats and poultry;

Bouchee/breaded: fish, seafood meats and poultry;

Burritos, enchiladas, falafels, filled crepes, pancakes and rolls, kebabs, omelettes, pasties, pates en croutes, pizzas, pasta and pies containing meat, poultry fish and seafood, quiche, roule au fromage, sandwiches, satays, sausage rolls, souffies, spring rolls, stuffed pitta bread, tacos, tostadas, vol au vents

70% N₂, 30% CO₂
Fresh pasta products: Capelli, fettucine, funghini, fusilli, linguine, macaoni, pasta shells, spaghetti, tagliarini, tagliatelle, trenette, tubetti, vermicelli, zitioni50% N₂, 50% CO₂
Bakery products: Bagels, bread puddings, breads, buns, cheesecakes, crepes, croissants, crumpets, danish pastries, fruit breads, fruit cakes, fruit pies, fruit strudels, fruit tarts, meringue cakes, muffins, nan bread, nut breads, pancakes, par-baked breads, pitta bread, pizza bases, pretzels, sponge layer cakes, swiss rolls, taco shells, tortillas, vegetable breads, waffles50% N₂, 50% CO₂
Hard cheeses: Aerosol creams, butter, cream cakes, creams, custards, fresh cheeses, hard cheeses, margarine, semi-hard cheeses, sliced cheeses, yoghurts100% CO₂
Grated and soft cheeses: Aerosol creams, butter, cream cakes, creams, custards, fresh cheeses, grated cheeses, margarine, sliced cheeses, soft cheeses, yoghurts70% N₂, 30% CO₂
Dried food products: Coffee, milkpowder, cocoa powders, dehydrated mil, dried and salted fish, dried and salted seafood, dried beans, dried cereals, dried colourings, dried flavourings, dried fruits, dried herbs, dried lentils, dried mushrooms, dried pasta, dried snack food, dried spices, dried vegetables, flours, nuts, potato crisps, teas100% N₂ or 30% CO₂, 70% O₂
Cooked and dressed vegetable products: Bean chillies, bhajis, broccoli in cheese, bubble and squeak, cauliflower cheese, coleslaw, cooked beans and potatoes, corn fritters, garlic mushrooms, lentil cutlets, other dressed salads, pakoras, pasta and potato salads, pilafs, quorn dishes, rice salads, rissoles, stuffed peppers and tomatoes, vegetable bakes, casseroles containing vegetables, vegetable pastas and crumbles, vegetable curries and dosas, vegetable flans, vegetable pilau, vegetable pie, vegetable pie, vegetarian burgers30% CO₂, 70% O₂
Liquid food and beverage products: Cordials, fruit juices, liqueurs, liquid yoghurt, milk, mineral waters, oils, spirits, vegetable juices, wines100% N₂
Fresh whole and prepared fruit and vegetable products: Apples, apricots, artichoke, asparagus, aubergine, avocado, bananas, bean sprouts, beetroot, beans, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, celery, cherries, cucumber, cumquats, fennel, garlic, citrus fruits, grapes, guava, kiwi fruit, leek, lettuces, lychees, mango, marrow, melons, fruit and vegetable salads, okra, onions, other sprouts, papayas, parsnips, passionfruit, peaches, pears, peas, peppers, pineapple, plums, potatoes, radish, rhubarb, spinach, star apples, strawberries, other berries, sweetcorn, tomatoes90% N₂ or 5% CO₂, 5% O₂

What products can be packed in MAP modified atmosphere packaging

Modified Atmosphere Packaging is suitable for a wide range of food product. While traditionally mainly dairy products, meat products or bread were packaged under protective atmosphere, now MAP is more and more used for other foods like fish, coffee, fruit or vegetables. In addition, Modified Atmosphere Packaging is driven by the growing popularity of ready-made meals and convenience products.

Meat and sausage products

Meat and sausage products, especially raw meat, are very prone to spoiling due to microbial growth, on account of their high moisture and nutrient content. No matter whether beef, pork or poultry – spoilage begins from the moment of slaughter and especially after butchering. Besides high hygiene standards and permanent cooling, modified atmospheres can significantly extend the shelf life of meat and sausage products. CO2 is the most important among the protective gases. At concentrations above 20 %, CO2 can considerably reduce microbial growth. In the case of red meat, there is also the risk of oxidation of the red colour pigments. The meat will lose its red colour, becoming grey and unappetising in appearance. This oxidation is especially prominent with beef. A high oxygen content in protective gas packaging can prevent oxidation. A low carbon monoxide content (approx. 0,5 %) can also help to retain the red colour of meat. However, the use of this gas is not allowed in the EU, for example. Poultry is especially sensitive to rapid spoilage and is therefore subject to higher requirements for permanent cooling. Here too, a modified atmosphere with CO2 content will extend the shelf life. A high oxygen content is also used for poultry without skin so as to retain the colour of the meat. The CO2 can partly be absorbed by the foods. To prevent the packaging from collapsing, nitrogen is used as a supporting gas.

Sausage and meat products, e.g. marinated or smoked meat pieces, react very differently depending on the preparation. Longer shelf-lives can be afforded by the use protective gases right from the start. The CO2 content should not be too high with these products, in order to prevent a sour taste.

Fish and Seafood products

Fish and seafood are some of the most sensitive foods. They are at risk of rapidly declining in quality and spoiling even shortly after the catch. The reason for this lies in the neutral pH value as an ideal precondition for microorganisms as well as special enzymes that negatively affect taste and odour. Fish, which is rich in fatty acids, also becomes rancid quickly. The most important element for a longer shelf life is cooling close to 0° Celsius. Modified atmospheres with minimum 20 % CO2 also retard the growth of bacteria. CO2 components around 50 % are frequently used. Higher CO2 concentrations can lead to undesirable side effects such as liquid loss or a sour taste. In the case of low-fat fish and shellfish, O2 is also used in the packaging. This prevents a fading or loss of the colour, while at the same time serving as a growth inhibitor for some types of bacteria. When dealing with shellfish and crustaceans, special attention should be paid to ensuring a CO2 content that is not too high. This can be discerned most clearly by a sour taste, while these products absorb CO2 the most, as a result of which the packaging can collapse. Nitrogen as an inert supporting gas prevents this effect.

Dairy products

Cheese is predominantly spoiled by microbial growth or rancidness. A continuous cooling chain essentially extends the shelf life of products. With hard cheese, there is a risk of mould formation upon contact with oxygen. As a result, vacuum packaging was frequently used in the past, even though these are awkward to open and can leave unattractive marks behind on the product at the same time. CO2 effectively prevents mould formation, but does not otherwise affect the maturation of the cheese. Soft cheese can quickly become rancid. This problem can also be tackled with CO2 modified atmospheres. However, as soft cheese absorbs CO2 to a significantly higher extent, there is a risk of the packaging collapsing. A correspondingly lower CO2 content should therefore be chosen. In the case of milk products such as yoghurt or cream, there is a risk of the products absorbing too much CO2 and becoming sour. A lower CO2 content should therefore be chosen.

Milk powder, above all for use in baby food, is a highly sensitive product. It is especially important to ensure that oxygen is displaced from the packaging in order to extend the shelf life. In practice, packaging is carried out in pure nitrogen with as low a residual oxygen content as possible.

Bread and Cake

With bread, cake and biscuits, the shelf life is primarily affected by potential mould formation. A high standard of hygiene during production and packaging can significantly minimise this risk. Packaging involving a modified atmosphere with CO2 and without oxygen largely prevents the products from becoming mouldy and extends the shelf life. To prevent the packaging from collapsing owing to CO2 absorption by the products, nitrogen is used as a supporting gas in many cases.

Fruit and Vegetables

Modified atmospheres in packaging make it possible to offer consumers fresh and untreated products – in other words succulently fresh fruit and vegetables – with a long shelf life. At the same time, fruit and vegetables are subject to very special requirements in regard to the nature of the packaging and atmosphere. This is because – in contrast to other food – fruit and vegetables continue breathing after the harvest and consequently require an oxygen content in the packaging. Furthermore, the packaging film does not have to be fully tight. By taking the product’s breathing and the permeability of the film, typically via micro-perforation, into account, the composition of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and low amounts of oxygen ideal for the product can be maintained. The term used here is an EMA (equilibrium modified atmosphere). The gas composition is individually adapted to the corresponding product.

Thorough cleaning along with hygienic processing are the fundamental preconditions for long-lasting freshness. Modified atmospheres, in conjunction with corresponding cooling, can be used to extend the shelf life of fresh produce, while achieving an attractive packaging design at the point of sale.

Pasta and ready-made meals

The nature and composition of fresh pasta and, in particular, readymade meals are very different. Above all, multi-component products such as ready-made pizzas or sandwiches contain many different foods with differing shelf lives and spoilage properties. In the majority of cases, modified atmospheres can significantly extend the shelf life without using oxygen. Mixtures of CO2 and nitrogen are used here. The concentration of the gases is oriented to the content of the product. If, for example, there is a risk that large volumes of CO2 will be absorbed by the product, the nitrogen content should be chosen higher to prevent the packaging from collapsing.

Snacks and Nuts

Snack products, for example potato crisps or peanuts, primarily involve problems associated with the fat content of the food. There is a risk of oxidation, whereby the products can quickly become rancid if the packaging is not optimal. To extend the shelf life, it is therefore important to minimise the contact with oxygen. Modified atmospheres with 100 % nitrogen are frequently used. In this way, a premature spoilage can be prevented, while these atmospheres also provide protection from mechanical damage to sensitive products, e. g. potato crisps in conventional packets.

Wine

Gases or gas mixtures are often used to protect wine in the different phases of its production process and to retain the quality of the product. They are mainly used to avoid contact with oxygen and prevent microbial deterioration. The tank headspace is replaced with an inert gas or a gas mixture, for example of CO2, N2 or Ar. The composition of the gases is chosen according to the type of wine.

Coffee

As a dried product, coffee is relatively insensitive to spoilage by microorganisms. However, the risk of the fatty acids it contains oxidising and making the product rancid is greater. To prevent this, oxygen is excluded from coffee packaging. Instead, a modified atmosphere comprising pure nitrogen is frequently used in coffee sachets or capsules.

Modified atmosphere packaging machine and related devices

To package a product in a modified atmosphere packaging requires sophisticated machinery to flush out air from the packaging chamber and replace it with a different gas or precisely defined mixture of gases, then seal the product in the packaging so that only the modified atmosphere surrounds the product and not any other unwanted gas.

Cutting edge technologies have been developed to ensure that the gas mixture is the correct one, and to test that once sealed the packages contain the right mixture and do not leak.

For various types of modified atmosphere packaging machines, please view our MAP machines details in this page.

Modified atmosphere packaging quality control

In modified atmosphere packaging, you always need to make sure that the filled modified air is at the right mixing ratio as you expected or planned. The following devices are necessary.

Gas mixers and meterers

In the packaging process the air inside the package is replaced by a gas or a gas mixture. Pre-mixed modified atmospheres are available in different mixtures and under several brand names. Today, in most cases on-site gas mixers are used to create these gas mixtures. MAP gas mixers provide verified gas quality and safety in the packaging process – for germfree and long shelf life food. But above all they offer high flexibility to the user. At the push of a button different mixtures can be produced in the shortest time on one packaging line, depending on the requirements of the product. WITT offers gas mixing and metering systems for all packaging machines used in the food industry, no matter whether it’s vacuum packaging, thermos forming, flow pack or chamber packaging machine. The gas mixing systems are adjusted to the specific product type and processes, and require only basic installation requirements.

Gas analysers

Gas analysers are essential for quality control in the MAP process. The monitoring can be done as continuous analysis during the packaging process or batch sampling after the packaging process. For continuous analysis, a gas analyser module is integrated into the gas mixing system. The gas analyser monitors the correct composition of the gas mixture. Sample testing is part of the quality control system of almost every company working with modified atmospheres. Via a needle, a sample is taken from the package. High quality gas analysers use modern sensors, very precise and rapid and requiring a very low gas volume. They are therefore also suited to packs with very small headspace, and a very low volume of gas inside the package. All data is logged and can be archived for complete QA documentation.

Leak detection

Modified atmospheres perform only if the protective gas remains inside the package. The package has to be fully leak tight. As a freshness guarantee to retailers and consumers, package leak detection can also provide competitive advantage. Leak testing prevents needless returns, loss of prestige, legal consequences and, worst case, loss of business. To optimise quality assurance, the user can choose between solutions for sample or in-line testing – based on CO2 or a water bubble test. Package leak detection systems reliably detect even the smallest leak, and are easy to operate. Furthermore, all tests can be digitally logged and documented for customers.

Ambient air monitoring

Gas monitoring systems for ambient air protect employees and make the use of gases such as carbon dioxide safer. This is not toxic but accumulates unnoticed in closed rooms and replaces the oxygen in the air. A concentration of 0.3 percent carbon dioxide in ambient air can be a health hazard. The allowed maximum concentration in the workplace is 0.5 percent. At five percent, headaches and dizziness may occur; eight percent and more leads to unconsciousness or even death. The gas level warning unit permanently monitors the concentration of the respective gas in the ambient air, and activates an acoustic and visual alarm when individually definable limits are exceeded. Simple and effective.

For food and vegetables, controlled atmospheres are not just used in packaging but also for the control of ripening control, in special ripening chambers with the help of ethylene. By using gas analysers, the ambient atmosphere can be monitored.

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